July 1, 2005

Scenarios and the Growth of Knowledge

Notes on the Epistemic Element in Scenario Building
  • Paul Dragos Aligica

    Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
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Scenarios raise a very remarkable challenge. They are a special category of thought experiments and as such they deal with the domain of the “possible” and “probable”, i.e. with the world of speculation. Nevertheless they are of a crucial practical importance for public policy, management and strategic thinking in general: any premeditated significant action has to be preceded by such a thought experiment that anticipates the possibility of its outcomes and its implications. The question is then, how could speculation have such a crucial epistemic role? What kind of knowledge, if any, do scenarios produce? What is the epistemic role of scenarios? The objective of this article is to discuss the controversial but crucial issue of the epistemic functions of scenarios and to outline several possible approaches to it. The article explores the relevance in this respect of the research that has been already done on thought experiments, de-biasing, deductive arguments and uncertainty—and complexity—coping cognitive devices while indicating the potential contribution of that literature to the further development of the scenario building practice and of the futures methodology.

Read the article at Science Direct.

Citation: Paul Dragos Aligica, "Scenarios and the Growth of Knowledge: Notes on the Epistemic Element in Scenario Building" Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Volume 72, Issue 7, September 2005, Pages 815-824