The first citation is taken from the entry ‘Mathematics applied to political economy’ in the Dizionario universale di economia politica e di commercio by the nineteenth-century Italian economist Gerolamo Boccardo (1877: 218, my

translation). The second is taken from the entry ‘Mathematical economics’ by a probably more famous economist, Gerard Debreu (1987: 399 and 401), in the New Palgrave Dictionary. Boccardo was a committed positivist, who claimed that the scientific method

could achieve the greatest perfection only through the application of the mathematical method: while, in fact, empirical observations were the indispensable starting point of any knowledge endeavour – including political economy – only mathematics could grant such observations the exact and systematic form that was required to turn any discipline – including, again, political economy – into a ‘true’ science, the paradigmatic case being of course that of physics (Boccardo 1877: 217). But if the primary role of mathematics was to grant exactness and order to observations, it followed that no discipline could achieve a truly scientific status by employing the deductive method only. Hence, Boccardo thought that those economists who, like William Whewell, championed the formal approach were actually reducing political economy to a mere mathematical game, devoid of any empirical import and similar in spirit to the theory of chess (ibid.: 219).1