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Contrastive explanation and unrealistic models: The case of the new economic geography

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  • Caterina Marchionni
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    Abstract

    The contrastive approach to explanation is employed to shed light on the issue of the unrealisticness of models and their assumptions in economics. If we take explanations to be answers to contrastive questions of the form, then unrealistic elements such as omissions and idealizations are (at least partly) dependent on the selected contrast. These contrast-dependent assumptions are shown to serve the function of fixing the shared causal background between the fact and the foil. It is argued that looking at the explanations offered by economic models in contrastive terms helps to be precise about their explanatory potential, and hence, to assess the adequacy of their unrealistic assumptions. I apply the insights of the contrastive approach to the 'new economic geography' models, and to a selection of criticisms directed at them. This case illustrates how a contrastive analysis can help the solution of disputes concerning the unrealisticness of particular models.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Journal of Economic Methodology.

    Volume (Year): 13 (2006)
    Issue (Month): 4 ()
    Pages: 425-446

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    Handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:13:y:2006:i:4:p:425-446

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    Related research

    Keywords: explanation; contrastives; models; unrealisticness; new economic geography; economic geography;

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    1. Gianmarco Ottaviano, 2003. "Regional Policy in the Global Economy: Insights from New Economic Geography," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 37(6-7), pages 665-673.
    2. OTTAVIANO, Gianmarco I.P. & THISSE, Jacques-François, 2004. "New economic geography : what about the N ?," CORE Discussion Papers 2004065, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
    3. Ottaviano, Gianmarco Ireo Paolo & Puga, Diego, 1997. "Agglomeration in the Global Economy: A Survey of the 'New Economic Geography'," CEPR Discussion Papers 1699, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Scotchmer, Suzanne & Thisse, Jacques-Francois, 1992. "Space and Competition: A Puzzle," The Annals of Regional Science, Springer, vol. 26(3), pages 269-86, September.
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