Armchair Science

Publication Year:
Usage 396
Downloads 396
Social Media 1
Tweets 1
Repository URL:
Northcott, Robert; Alexandrova, Anna
conference paper description
We define the notion of armchair science – roughly, a concentration on the development of idealized theory with only a loose relation to possible empirical application, and in particular with no specific real-world target in mind. Work in this style is both very influential and very widespread in contemporary social and biological science. We propose that it be subjected to what we call efficiency analysis. To this end, we examine in detail the role of the Prisoner’s Dilemma game in explaining the live-and-let-live system in World War One trenches. It yields, together with other considerations, a strong prima facie case that armchair science fails the efficiency analysis, in other words that it absorbs too many scientific resources that would be better spent elsewhere. Philosophy of science should be at the forefront of highlighting this important issue. Yet for several reasons, which we explain, existing philosophical work on modeling has fallen short in this critical role