At the same time, however, Norgaard claims that “in fact, few female scientists conduct methodological studies or make their beliefs explicit.
Transdisciplinarity and methodological pluralism are considered by many parts of ecological economics as central ideas. Instead of offering meaningful epistemology and methodology, however, the result is superficiality and confusion. Such a lack of interest in the theoretical basis of ecological economics has led not least to the journal Ecological Economics to an amorphous literature that is full of contradictions and often has little relation to the alleged object of investigation, namely
society, economy and nature and their interactions.
Transdisciplinarity has a tendency to be used as a delusion with no depth in disciplinary understanding, and to smile at those who appear to be overspecialized experts. This weak transdisciplinarity can be contrasted with a strong form that is based on a serious interdisciplinary approach and requires, as a prerequisite, knowledge of disciplinary fields to be brought together and synthesized. Transdisciplinarity is then no longer a path that leads past disciplinary engagement, but a means of critically reflecting on different perspectives, through which interdisciplinarity is broadened to include an examination of everyday knowledge. While the rhetoric of transdisciplinarity has taken over, its theoretical basis remains largely neglected, which in a more general sense applies to the foundations of scientific knowledge within ecological economics.
In this field, as well as in mainstream economics, methodology is the placeholder for all aspects of the philosophy of science, which contributes to a little specified scope. In essence, the methodological discussions have barely transcended Norgaard’s article in the first issue of the journal, which claimed the need for a pluralistic inclusion of even the naive objectivism of
mainstream economics. The main argument for methodological pluralism is that “a variety of methodologies are appropriate and any compulsion to exclude methodologies for reasons of conformity” should be avoided. However, this is an argument against prescriptive epistemologies and not for accepting any methodology per se. Intellectual progress requires decisions that contribute to knowledge and what does not, or as Norgaard points out, “creating an intellectual environment to divorce the good from the bad.” Norgaard himself is critical of certain epistemological assumptions – unity of science, general laws, independence of the reality of observer and culture – and advocates their removal from the epistemological repertoire of ecological economics. Furthermore, he explicitly criticizes environmental researchers and economists for their adherence to prescriptive methodologies such as “logical positivism” and declares that they are “in opposition to this long-standing belief in
correct knowledge processes and accurate predictions”. Of course, Norgaard offers a different “correct method of cognition”.
In any case, his point does not seem to be that all epistemologies could equally be considered valid or acceptable. At the same time, however, Norgaard claims that “in fact, few female scientists conduct methodological studies or make their beliefs explicit. Individual scientists and finally entire disciplines succeed by acting pragmatically “. Later it is said that logical
positivism is “inappropriate but necessary” and indeed, “because modern humans conceive of science in the sense of objective, universal truths”. Ecological economists must therefore accept to argue on the same naive objectivist terrain! This amounts to recommending methodologies for reasons of popularity, and misses the critical epistemological concerns and
realistic arguments that Norgaard himself has advanced.
Despite this modest argumentation, the idea of uncritical pluralism has spread within ecological economics and has been propagated at the highest level; for example with Costanza, Perrings and Cleveland by two former editors of the magazine and two former presidents of the international association. In a joint statement, they write: “Ecological economics is necessarily eclectic and pluralistic. It is therefore difficult to pin down and summarize. “If this is accepted as the natural order of things, ecological economics ultimately seems condemned to irrelevance.
The problem of methodological pluralism is either having to accept everything indiscriminately and thus having to miss any meaningful conception of cognition, or having to allow reasons to criticize certain ideas and approaches. “An unstructured pluralism or eclecticism in the sense of an absence of selection criteria or an ‘anything goes’ is incompatible with the production of knowledge.” Moreover, the assumption of an objective reality brings with it further limitations. “There is,” Dow says, “a limit to how far the plurality of understandings of reality, insights, and meaning can reach as knowledge needs to be developed within groups and communicated to others. In practice, plurality can not be endless “. Developing knowledge bases is linked to conceptualizations of reality by groups and at the same time limited to the extent to which knowledge is to
be judged as true.
The need to protect ecological economics from an “arbitrary openness to anything possible” is described by Baumgärtner et al. accepted.
However, they also require epistemological plurality to support a pluralistic use of methods. Apart from the fact that there is no need for it, it seems problematic to propose several epistemologies without synthesis, because it is simply impossible to simultaneously represent two opposing knowledge concepts. This is how Baumgärtner et al. Epistemologically, finally, in arguments for a social constructivist position, without making it clear whether it is strong or weak. They also note the need for a methodological basis that is consistent with and systematically aligned with the object and goals of ecological economics, with some of its proposals being potentially advanced. At the same time Baumgärtner et al. but the epistemological fallacies by never broaching the ontological foundations of ecological economics, thus allowing the opportunity to substantiate their
claims argumentatively. Nonetheless, the tenor of this position is quite clear that epistemological and methodological order is necessary for the progress of ecological economics.
Anyone who reflects on how the integration of knowledge can be deepened will find out that discourse, deliberation, and effective criticism are helped when there is a basis from which to identify, understand, and understand the principles, perceptions, and presuppositions of others’ thinking can be evaluated. Awareness of epistemological differences is a prerequisite for dealing with ideas, but it does not progress with an unlimited range of “methodologies.” Thus criteria are necessary for who can best conduct a discourse. Those who call for paradigm shifts and revolutions in economics would do better – and be more consistent – to turn to heterodox schools of thought. They would then no longer have to pretend to be orthodox economists working in the defense of their own
Paradigms and existing societal power structures have already invested a lot, built bridges and shared paths with them. Because we encounter here something more fundamental, namely a different willingness to accept in the question of what is real.