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Physics envy

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In the humanities — literary criticism, anthropology and so on — there's a field called TheoryWikipedia's W.svg;

"We're just like the physicists. They talk incomprehensively? We can talk incomprehensively! They have big words? We'll have big words! They draw far-reaching conclusions? We'll draw far-reaching conclusions! We're just as prestigious as they are."

Now if [the physicists] say, "Well, look — we're doing real science and you guys aren't", then that's white male/sexist/bourgeois/whatever the answer is.
Noam Chomsky[1]

Physics envy (cf. "penis envy") is a phrase used to criticize procrustean attempts to make a discipline more "scientific" (or perhaps just more "sciencey") by aping the form of the physical sciences, usually through what is claimed to be excessive use of formal logic or mathematicization.

The term was coined by biologist Joel E. Cohen in a 1971 issue of Science.[2]

A rather literal example of this is the borrowing of equations from contemporary physics by the "marginalist school" of economists during the 19th century.[3]

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Further reading[edit]

  • Segura, Julio and Carlos Rodríguez Braun (eds.) (2004). An Eponymous Dictionary of Economics — A Guide to Laws and Theorems Named after Economists. Edward Elgar Publishing. 

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