The Structure of Tradeoffs in Model Building

Synthese 170 (1):169 - 190 (2009)

Authors
John Matthewson
Massey University
Michael Weisberg
University of Pennsylvania
Abstract
Despite their best efforts, scientists may be unable to construct models that simultaneously exemplify every theoretical virtue. One explanation for this is the existence of tradeoffs: relationships of attenuation that constrain the extent to which models can have such desirable qualities. In this paper, we characterize three types of tradeoffs theorists may confront. These characterizations are then used to examine the relationships between parameter precision and two types of generality. We show that several of these relationships exhibit tradeoffs and discuss what consequences those tradeoffs have for theoretical practice
Keywords Tradeoff  Model  Modeling  Biological models  Richard Levins  Generality  Precision  Theoretical virtues
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-008-9366-y
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References found in this work BETA

How the Laws of Physics Lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - Oxford University Press.
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The Diverse Aims of Science.Angela Potochnik - 2015 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 53:71-80.
Optimality Explanations: A Plea for an Alternative Approach.Collin Rice - 2012 - Biology and Philosophy 27 (5):685-703.

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