Philosophy of Physics Seminar (Thursday - Week 7, MT18)

Philosophy of Physics

Abstract: I suggest that the representational content of a scientific model is determined by a `key' associated with it. A key allows the model's users to draw inferences about its target system. Crucially, these inferences need not be a matter of proposed similarity (structural or otherwise) to its target but can allow for much more conventional associations between model features and features to be exported. Although this is a simple suggestion, it has broad ramifications. I point out that it allows us to re-conceptualise what we mean by `idealisation': just because a model is a distortion of its target (in the relevant respects, and even essentially so), this does not entail that it is a misrepresentation. I show how, once we think about idealisation in this way, various puzzles in the philosophy of science dissolve (the role of fictional models in science; the non-factivity of understanding; the problem of inconsistent models; and others)

Philosophy of Physics Seminar Convenor: Dr Adam Caulton