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Are rival theories of smoking underdetermined?

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  • Robert Goldfarb
  • Thomas Leonard
  • Steven Suranovic

Abstract

Some empirically minded philosophers of science argue that the evidence should choose the best theory from among theoretical rivals. However, the evidence may not speak clearly, a problem of 'underdetermination of theory by data'. We examine this problem in a concrete setting, rival theories of smoking behaviour. We investigate whether several uncontested pieces of empirical evidence allow us to choose between two competing theoretical perspectives on smoking, rational choice and non-rational choice, respectively. Next, we develop a more refined taxonomy of smoking theories, and consider the consequences for theory testing. Finally, we examine some normative aspects of theory choice involving the appropriate scope of government action.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert Goldfarb & Thomas Leonard & Steven Suranovic, 2001. "Are rival theories of smoking underdetermined?," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(2), pages 229-251.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:8:y:2001:i:2:p:229-251
    DOI: 10.1080/13501780110047291
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Robert S. Goldfarb & Thomas C. Leonard & Sara Markowitz & Steven Suranovic, 2009. "Can A Rational Choice Framework Make Sense of Anorexia Nervosa?," NBER Working Papers 14838, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Steven M. Suranovic, 2005. "An Economic Model of Youth Smoking: Tax and Welfare Effects," HEW 0511003, EconWPA.

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