Credible Worlds, Capacities and Mechanisms
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This paper asks how, in science in general and in economics in particular, theoretical models aid the understanding of real-world phenomena. Using specific models in economics and biology as test cases, it considers three alternative answers: that models are tools for isolating the ‘capacities’ of causal factors in the real world; that modelling is ‘conceptual exploration’ which ultimately contributes to the development of genuinely explanatory theories; and that models are credible counterfactual worlds from which inductive inferences can be made. The paper argues that the ‘credible worlds’ account captures significant aspects of scientific practice, even if many modellers see their work as conceptual exploration.
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