CFP: Synthese Special Issue on Unrealistic Models

Call for Papers

Synthese Special Issue
WHAT TO MAKE OF HIGHLY UNREALISTIC MODELS?

Guest Editors:
N. Emrah Aydinonat, Uskali Mäki, and Till Grüne-Yanoff

What to make of highly unrealistic models? This is one of the big questions in contemporary philosophy of science, especially in philosophy of economics and biology.

We consider two set of issues particularly relevant here. The first has to do with the ways in which highly unrealistic models should be characterized and the numerous ways in which models can be unrealistic. The key concepts here include those of representation and target, truth and falsity, abstraction and isolation, idealization and simplification. Recent literature on models exhibits conceptual and terminological diversity and disagreement in characterizing unrealistic models. Different authors use different names to refer to highly unrealistic models, including ‘toy model’, ‘fictional model’, ‘minimal model’, ‘non-representative model’, ‘model without a target’, ‘substitute model’. Moreover, they sometimes use the same name to refer to different types of models. Neither the precise meanings nor the relations between these notions are clear in the literature.

The second set of issues has to do with the functions and uses of such unrealistic models. What purposes can they serve, and what purposes are actually pursued when using them? The main body of literature points to representational quality as grounding explanatory capacity despite abstraction, isolation, simplification and idealization. Others dispute this idea. Moreover, highly unrealistic models can serve other possible functions, next to their explanatory uses. Obviously, debates concerning the appropriate uses of highly unrealistic models need some tidying up.

The Special Issue What to Make of Highly Unrealistic Models aims to sort out some of the ambiguities and confusions in the literature and to contribute to a better understanding of the interpretations and uses of highly abstract and idealizing models. We are particularly interested in contributions that (i) clarify the meaning of commonly used terms such as toy model, minimal model, fictional model, substitute model, etc, and that (ii) clarify the arguments for and against such models having explanatory import or some other epistemic or non-epistemic function. Papers that focus on the uses (and misuses) specific (set of) models in scientific practice are particularly welcome.

Please submit your paper using the editorial manager at https://www.editorialmanager.com/synt/ by 31 January 28 February 2019. When the system asks you to “Choose Article Type”, select “S.I. Unrealistic Models” in the pulldown menu.

Before submitting your paper, please, read carefully the Synthese “Instructions for Authors” at: https://www.springer.com/philosophy/epistemology+and+philosophy+of+science/journal/11229

If you have questions, please contact emrah.aydinonat@helsinki.fi

Symposium on Dani Rodrik’s Economics Rules

The latest issue of the Journal of Economic Methodology (2018, 25/3) is a special issue on Dani Rodrik’s Economic Rules. It consists of the following articles:

I hope you will enjoy reading the symposium and join the conversation.

 

Understanding with theoretical models

ABSTRACT. This paper discusses the epistemic import of highly abstract and simplified theoretical models using Thomas Schelling’s checkerboard model as an example. We argue that the epistemic contribution of theoretical models can be better understood in the context of a cluster of models relevant to the explanatory task at hand. The central claim of the paper is that theoretical models make better sense in the context of a menu of possible explanations. In order to justify this claim, we introduce a distinction between causal scenarios and causal mechanism schemes. These conceptual tools help us to articulate the basis for modelers’ intuitive confidence that their models make an important epistemic contribution. By focusing on the role of the menu of possible explanations in the evaluation of explanatory hypotheses, it is possible to understand how a causal mechanism scheme can improve our explanatory understanding even in cases where it does not describe the actual cause of a particular phenomenon.

KEYWORDS: models, explanation, causal mechanisms, segregation

JEL CODES: B40B41

Citation: Ylikoski, Petri & N. Emrah Aydinonat. 2014. “The Diversity of Models as a Means to Better Explanations in Economics.” Journal of Economic Methodology, 21 (1), 19-36. https://doi.org/10.1080/1350178X.2014.886470
Pre-print available at SSRN ResearchGate.

The diversity of models as a means to better explanations in economics

ABSTRACT. In Economics Rules, Rodrik [(2015). Economics rules: Why economics works, when it fails, and how to tell the difference. Oxford: Oxford University Press] argues that what makes economics powerful despite the limitations of each and every model is its diversity of models. Rodrik suggests that the diversity of models in economics improves its explanatory capacities, but he does not fully explain how. I offer a clearer picture of how models relate to explanations of particular economic facts or events, and suggest that the diversity of models is a means to better economic explanations.

KEYWORDS: Theoretical modelsexplanationdiversity of modelshow-possibly reasoningfunctions of models

JEL CODES: B40B41

Citation: Aydinonat, N. Emrah. 2018. “The Diversity of Models as a Means to Better Explanations in Economics.” Journal of Economic Methodology, June, 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1080/1350178X.2018.1488478
Pre-print available at SSRN ResearchGate.