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Non-causal understanding with economic models: the case of general equilibrium

Verreault-Julien, Philippe (2017) Non-causal understanding with economic models: the case of general equilibrium. Journal of Economic Methodology, 24 (3). pp. 297-317. ISSN 1350-178X

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How can we use models to understand real phenomena if models misrepresent the very phenomena we seek to understand? Some accounts suggest that models may afford understanding by providing causal knowledge about phenomena via how-possibly explanations. However, general equilibrium models, for example, pose a challenge to this solution since their contribution appears to be purely mathematical results. Despite this, practitioners widely acknowledge that it improves our understanding of the world. I argue that the Arrow–Debreu model provides a mathematical how-possibly explanation which establishes claims of mathematical dependence. The account developed reveals how mathematical knowledge can inform claims about the world, allow ‘what-if-things-had-been-different’ inferences, and thus improve our understanding.

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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Verreault-Julien, Philippeverreaultjulien@fwb.eur.nl0000-0001-5816-8947
Keywords: models, understanding, how-possibly explanation , mathematical dependence, general equilibrium, Arrow and Debreu
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Economics
General Issues > Explanation
Depositing User: Dr. Philippe Verreault-Julien
Date Deposited: 22 Mar 2018 19:54
Last Modified: 22 Mar 2018 19:54
Item ID: 14487
Journal or Publication Title: Journal of Economic Methodology
Official URL:
DOI or Unique Handle:
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Economics
General Issues > Explanation
Date: 2017
Page Range: pp. 297-317
Volume: 24
Number: 3
ISSN: 1350-178X

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