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Progress in economics: Lessons from the spectrum auctions

In Harold Kincaid & Don Ross (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Economics. Oxford University Press. pp. 306--337 (2009)

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  1. Opinion Polling and Election Predictions.Robert Northcott - 2015 - Philosophy of Science 82 (5):1260-1271.
    Election prediction by means of opinion polling is a rare empirical success story for social science. I examine the details of a prominent case, drawing two lessons of more general interest: Methodology over metaphysics. Traditional metaphysical criteria were not a useful guide to whether successful prediction would be possible; instead, the crucial thing was selecting an effective methodology. Which methodology? Success required sophisticated use of case-specific evidence from opinion polling. The pursuit of explanations via general theory or causal mechanisms, by (...)
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  • It's Just a Feeling: Why Economic Models Do Not Explain.Anna Alexandrova & Robert Northcott - 2013 - Journal of Economic Methodology 20 (3):262 - 267.
    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.
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  • How Does Game Theory Inform Economic Engineering?Philippe van Basshuysen - unknown
    How is it possible that models from game theory, which are typically highly idealised, can be harnessed for designing institutions through which we interact? I argue that game theory assumes that social interactions have a specific structure, which is uncovered with the help of directed graphs. The graphs make explicit how game theory encodes counterfactual information in natural collections of its models and can therefore be used to track how model-interventions change model-outcomes. For model-interventions to inform real-world design requires the (...)
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  • Method Pluralism, Method Mismatch, & Method Bias.Adrian Currie & Shahar Avin - 2019 - Philosophers' Imprint 19 (13).
    Pluralism about scientific method is more-or-less accepted, but the consequences have yet to be drawn out. Scientists adopt different methods in response to different epistemic situations: depending on the system they are interested in, the resources at their disposal, and so forth. If it is right that different methods are appropriate in different situations, then mismatches between methods and situations are possible. This is most likely to occur due to method bias: when we prefer a particular kind of method, despite (...)
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  • Idealization and the Aims of Economics: Three Cheers for Instrumentalism.Julian Reiss - 2012 - Economics and Philosophy 28 (3):363-383.
    This paper aims to provide characterizations of realism and instrumentalism that are philosophically interesting and applicable to economics; and to defend instrumentalism against realism as a methodological stance in economics. Starting point is the observation that ‘all models are false’, which, or so I argue, is difficult to square with the realist's aim of truth, even if the latter is understood as ‘partial’ or ‘approximate’. The three cheers in favour of instrumentalism are: Once we have usefulness, truth is redundant. There (...)
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  • The Explanation Paradox.Julian Reiss - 2012 - Journal of Economic Methodology 19 (1):43-62.
    This paper examines mathematical models in economics and observes that three mutually inconsistent hypotheses concerning models and explanation are widely held: (1) economic models are false; (2) economic models are nevertheless explanatory; and (3) only true accounts explain. Commentators have typically resolved the paradox by rejecting either one of these hypotheses. I will argue that none of the proposed resolutions work and conclude that therefore the paradox is genuine and likely to stay.
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  • Prediction Versus Accommodation in Economics.Robert Northcott - unknown - Journal of Economic Methodology 26 (1):59-69.
    Should we insist on prediction, i.e. on correctly forecasting the future? Or can we rest content with accommodation, i.e. empirical success only with respect to the past? I apply general considerations about this issue to the case of economics. In particular, I examine various ways in which mere accommodation can be sufficient, in order to see whether those ways apply to economics. Two conclusions result. First, an entanglement thesis: the need for prediction is entangled with the methodological role of orthodox (...)
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  • Verisimilitude: A Causal Approach.Robert Northcott - 2013 - Synthese 190 (9):1471-1488.
    I present a new definition of verisimilitude, framed in terms of causes. Roughly speaking, according to it a scientific model is approximately true if it captures accurately the strengths of the causes present in any given situation. Against much of the literature, I argue that any satisfactory account of verisimilitude must inevitably restrict its judgments to context-specific models rather than general theories. We may still endorse—and only need—a relativized notion of scientific progress, understood now not as global advance but rather (...)
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  • Buyer Beware: Robustness Analyses in Economics and Biology.Jay Odenbaugh & Anna Alexandrova - 2011 - Biology and Philosophy 26 (5):757-771.
    Theoretical biology and economics are remarkably similar in their reliance on mathematical models, which attempt to represent real world systems using many idealized assumptions. They are also similar in placing a great emphasis on derivational robustness of modeling results. Recently philosophers of biology and economics have argued that robustness analysis can be a method for confirmation of claims about causal mechanisms, despite the significant reliance of these models on patently false assumptions. We argue that the power of robustness analysis has (...)
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