, Volume 70, Issue 1, pp 45–58 | Cite as

If No Capacities Then No Credible Worlds. But Can Models Reveal Capacities?

  • Nancy Cartwright
Original Article


This paper argues that even when simple analogue models picture parallel worlds, they generally still serve as isolating tools. But there are serious obstacles that often stop them isolating in just the right way. These are obstacles that face any model that functions as a thought-experiment but they are especially pressing for economic models because of the paucity of economic principles. Because of the paucity of basic principles, economic models are rich in structural assumptions. Without these no interesting conclusions can be drawn. This, however, makes trouble when it comes to exporting conclusions from the model to the world. One uncontroversial constraint on induction from special cases is to beware of extending conclusions to situations that we know are different in relevant respects. In the case of economic models it is clear by inspection that the unrealistic structural assumptions of the model are intensely relevant to the conclusion. Any inductive leap to a real situation seems a bad bet.


Thought Experiment Structural Assumption Robustness Result Stable Contribution Capacity Account 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social ScienceLondon School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)LondonUK
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of California San Diego (UCSD)San DiegoUSA

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