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Buyer beware: robustness analyses in theoretical economics

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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 been greatly exaggerated. It is best regarded as a method of discovery rather than confirmation.

This talk is part of the HPS Philosophy Workshop series.

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