Posts Tagged ‘increasingreturns’

Increasing returns in scientific knowledge

August 20, 2008

presented at the Workshop on Formal Modeling in Social Epistemology, Tilburg University

Rogier De Langhe
Centre for Logic and Philosophy of Science
Ghent University, Belgium

Matthias Greiff
Institute for Institutional and Innovation Economics
University of Bremen, Germany

We present a model that builds further on Philip Kitcher’s 1990 paper “The Division of Cognitive Labor”. We argue that Kitcher has made a valuable contribution in framing the problem and presenting a solution, but claim that his results have only limited scope because the scientific community is modelled as a closed system, with a definite ending point and decreasing marginal returns as the endpoint nears. In contrast, we present a model based on increasing returns, drawing on the literature of increasing returns models in institutional economics, in particular the formalism developed in a series of papers by Brian Arthur.


  • Arthur, Brian (1989), ‘Competing technologies, increasing returns, and lock-in by historical events’, The Economic Journal, 99, pp. 116-31
  • Arthur, Brian (1994). Increasing returns and path-dependence in the economy. University of Michigan Press
  • Kitcher, Philip (1990), ‘The division of cognitive labor’, The Journal of Philosophy, 87(1), pp. 5-22