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Alexandrova, Anna, Robert Northcott. It’s just a feeling: why economic models do not explain
2013, Journal of Economic Methodology, 20(3), 262-267
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Patricia Rich

Abstract: Julian Reiss correctly identified a trilemma about economic models: we cannot maintain that they are false, but nevertheless explain and that only true accounts explain. In this reply we give reasons to reject the second premise – that economic models explain. Intuitions to the contrary should be distrusted.

Comment: This is a good short article to read alongside Reiss' important paper on the explanation paradox, in the context of a philosophy of economics or social science class. It argues against Reiss' premise that economic models are explanatory. It draws on, but does not require, knowledge of anyone's positions in the larger debate on the status of formal models.

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Basso, Alessandra, Lisciandra, Chiara, Marchionni, Caterina. Hypothetical models in social science: their features and uses
2017, Springer Handbook of Model-Based Science. Magnani, L. & Bertolotti, T. (eds.). Springer, 413-433
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Added by: Björn Freter

Abstract: The chapter addresses the philosophical issues raised by the use of hypothetical modeling in the social sciences. Hypothetical modeling involves the construction and analysis of simple hypothetical systems to represent complex social phenomena for the purpose of understanding those social phenomena.

To highlight its main features hypothetical modeling is compared both to laboratory experimentation and to computer simulation. In analogy with laboratory experiments, hypothetical models can be conceived of as scientific representations that attempt to isolate, theoretically, the working of causal mechanisms or capacities from disturbing factors. However, unlike experiments, hypothetical models need to deal with the epistemic uncertainty due to the inevitable presence of unrealistic assumptions introduced for purposes of analytical tractability. Computer simulations have been claimed to be able to overcome some of the strictures of analytical tractability. Still they differ from hypothetical models in how they derive conclusions and in the kind of understanding they provide.

The inevitable presence of unrealistic assumptions makes the legitimacy of the use of hypothetical modeling to learn about the world a particularly pressing problem in the social sciences. A review of the contemporary philosophical debate shows that there is still little agreement on what social scientific models are and what they are for. This suggests that there might not be a single answer to the question of what is the epistemic value of hypothetical models in the social sciences.

Comment: [This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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