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CSS colloquium: Paul Hoyningen-Huene, Leibniz Universität; Universität Zürich

The logic of explanation by abstract models

Info about event


Wednesday 19 February 2020,  at 14:15 - 15:45


Aud G1 (1532-116)


I shall try to answer the question what the logic of explanation by abstract models is. I shall mainly refer to the respective explanatory practice in economics, and my main illustrative example is the Schelling model of (racial) segregation. This model shows that weak racial preferences (in the model) lead to racial segregation (in the model). Clearly, this is only a potential explanation of racial segregation (in the model), because other dynamics may also produce racial segregation (in the model). Therefore, even if the transfer of model results to the real world were without any loss, models by themselves maximally deliver potential explanations for the real world. What is the logic of this transfer? In contrast to most views on this matter, I claim that a robust model makes a mathematical conjecture plausible that can be applied immediately both to the model world and the real world. Finally, from the set of potential explanations offered by the model world, the actual explanation has to be identified by eliminating all potential explanations but one.

Coffee, tea, cakes and fruit will be served before the colloquium @ 2 pm