Anna Alexandrova



I am a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy of Science at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science in University Cambridge and a Fellow of King's College. Before coming to Cambridge I taught Philosophy at the University of Missouri St Louis, and was a postdoc at Washington University in St Louis PNP Program. I am a graduate of University of California San Diego in Philosophy and Science Studies. At Cambridge I teach philosophy of science and supervise student work in many related areas. Potential students may get in touch by emailing a dot a dot alexandrova at gmail dot com.


My research:

Models, Explanation and Policy

This project stems from my 2006 doctoral dissertation at University of California San Diego. I am interested in understanding rational choice models originating in economics and now used all over social sciences. What are we warranted to conclude on the basis of these models? What is their exact role in historical explanation and policy making? What is progress in model-based social science? Is modelling an efficient method of inference? On the last question I am growing increasingly skeptical. Main papers:

"Making Models Count" Philosophy of Science July 2008, 75:383-404. This is my first statement of the open-formula view of models and its advantages for understanding the role of models in mechanism design.

"Progress in Economics: Lessons from the Spectrum Auctions" (with Robert Northcott) in Harold Kincaid and Don Ross (Eds.) Oxford Handbook for Philosophy of Economics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009, 306-336. We give a fuller statement of the open-formula view explaining its superiority over alternative accounts. The article includes an extended account of auction design and explores its consequences for progress in economics.


"When Analytic Narratives Explain" The Journal of Philosophy of History March 2009: 3/1, 1-24. I analyze the role of rational choice models in historical explanation.


"Buyer Beware: Robustness Analyses in Economics and Biology" (with Jay Odenbaugh) in Biology and Philosophy 2011, 26:757–771, DOI 10.1007/s10539-011-9278-y. We criticize the appeal to robustness analysis of toy models arguing that it is not a method of confirmation of empirical claims.


"It's Just a Feeling: Why Economic Models Do Not Explain" (with Robert Northcott) in The Journal of Economic Methodology. (Commentary on Julian Reiss's "Explanation Paradox"). Here is the journal version. We argue that the most defensible reply to Reiss's Explanation Paradox is to reject the premise that economic models explain.

"The Prisoner's Dilemma doesn't explain much" (with Robert Northcott) in Martin Peterson (ed.), The Prisoner's Dilemma, Cambridge University Press, 2015. We use a case study of the WWI live-and-let-live system to show that Prisoner's Dilemma is not the powerful explanatory tool it is believed to be.


Sciences of well-being
Is well-being a legitimate object of science and if so what makes a measure of well-being valid? This is a focus of a series of papers on various ways in which philosophers and social scientists conceptualize happiness and well-being. I believe that no existing theory of well-being has the resources to underwrite the many projects that employ a notion of well-being across sciences, policy and personal deliberation. For example, child well-being, well-being in illness and community well-being, etc., will each need their own theories.
Here's a talk I gave on this topic. Main writings:

"Doing Well In The Circumstance" Journal of Moral Philosophy. 2013, 10/3: 310-328. I argue that well-being claims obey contextualist semantics.

"First Person Reports and The Measurement of Happiness" Philosophical Psychology 2008. I analyze the debate between hedonists and life satisfactionists in psychology, arguing that there is no straightforward superiority of former over the latter.

"Values and the Science of Well-being: A Recipe for Mixture" in the Oxford Handbook for Philosophy of Social Science, ed. H Kincaid, New York: Oxford University Press, 2011, 625-645. I survey the meanings of well-being in social sciences raising doubts that this diversity can be handled by a single theory.

"High Fidelity Economics" (with Dan Haybron) in the Elgar Companion to Recent Economic Methodology (eds. John Davis and Wade Hands), Edward Elgar, 2011, 94-117. We argue that the advent of happiness research is changing traditional welfare economics in beneficial ways.

"Well-being as an Object of Science" Philosophy of Science 2012, 79/5:678-689. I argue that well-being sciences do not currently have a good way of securing normative adequacy of measures of well-being.

"Towards a Theory of Child Well-being" (with Ramesh Raghavan) Social Indicators Research. 2015, 121/3: 887-902. We argue that the current study of child well-being lacks an underlying theory of child well-being and make inroads towards formulating one.

"Well-being and Philosophy of Science" Philosophy Compass. 2015, 10/3:219-231. I offer a survey of the sciences of well-being from the point of view of philosophy of science and explain how philosophy of science could contribute to this field.

"Can the Science of Well-being be Objective?" British Journal of Philosophy of Science 2016 (journal version). I formulate the distinct sense in which social and medical sciences concerned with well-being are value-laden, argue that these values should not be purged and propose principles for responsible treatment of values in the science of well-being.

"Is Construct Validation Valid?" (with Dan Haybron) forthcoming in Philosophy of Science (PSA Symposia). We explain why social scientists believe they can measure subjective well-being in a valid way, but point out that the existing procedures for validation wrongly avoid philosophy.

"Is Well-being Measurable After All?" Public Health Ethics 2016 (journal version). This is a commentary on Dan Hausman's Valuing Health. Against Hausman's contention that well-being cannot be measured I argue that it could be, provided we adopt contextual notions of well-being and a realistic model of measurement.

My book A Philosophy for the Science of Well-being was published with Oxford University Press in 2017. The introductory chapter is available here.

Find links to my other works on PhilPapers and Academia.