Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Laplace’s Demon and the Adventures of His Apprentices

Frigg, Roman; Bradley, Seamus; Du, Hailiang; Smith, Leonard A.

Laplace’s Demon and the Adventures of His Apprentices Thumbnail


Roman Frigg

Seamus Bradley

Leonard A. Smith


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 underappreciated, 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.


Frigg, R., Bradley, S., Du, H., & Smith, L. A. (2014). Laplace’s Demon and the Adventures of His Apprentices. Philosophy of Science, 81(1), 31-59.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Jan 1, 2014
Publication Date Jan 1, 2014
Deposit Date Jul 31, 2018
Publicly Available Date Aug 21, 2018
Journal Philosophy of Science
Print ISSN 0031-8248
Electronic ISSN 1539-767X
Publisher Philosophy of Science Association
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 81
Issue 1
Pages 31-59
Related Public URLs


Published Journal Article (792 Kb)

Copyright Statement
Copyright 2014 by the Philosophy of Science Association. All rights reserved.

You might also like

Downloadable Citations