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Laplace’s Demon and the Adventures of His Apprentices

Frigg, Roman and Bradley, Seamus and Du , Hailiang and Smith, Leonard A. (2014) Laplace’s Demon and the Adventures of His Apprentices. Philosophy of Science, 81 (1). pp. 31-59.

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The sensitive dependence on initial conditions (SDIC) associated with nonlinear models imposes limitations on the models’ predictive power. We draw attention to an additional limitation than has been under-appreciated, namely structural model error (SME). A model has SME if the model-dynamics differ from the dynamics in the target system. If a nonlinear model has only the slightest SME, then its ability to generate decision-relevant predictions is compromised. Given a perfect model, we can take the effects of SDIC into account by substituting probabilistic predictions for point predictions. This route is foreclosed in the case
of SME, which puts us in a worse epistemic situation than SDIC.

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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Bradley, Seamus
Du , Hailiang
Smith, Leonard A.
Keywords: Sensitive dependence on initial conditions (SDIC), structural model error (SME)
Subjects: General Issues > Models and Idealization
Depositing User: Roman Frigg
Date Deposited: 16 Dec 2014 19:30
Last Modified: 16 Dec 2014 19:30
Item ID: 11201
Journal or Publication Title: Philosophy of Science
Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
Official URL:
Subjects: General Issues > Models and Idealization
Date: January 2014
Page Range: pp. 31-59
Volume: 81
Number: 1

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