Informational versus Functional Theories of Scientific Representation

Synthese 172 (2):197 - 213 (2010)
Recent work in the philosophy of science has generated an apparent conflict between theories attempting to explicate the nature of scientific representation. On one side, there are what one might call 'informational' views, which emphasize objective relations (such as similarity, isomorphism, and homomorphism) between representations (theories, models, simulations, diagrams, etc.) and their target systems. On the other side, there are what one might call 'functional' views, which emphasize cognitive activities performed in connection with these targets, such as interpretation and inference. The main sources of the impression of conflict here are arguments by some functionalists to the effect that informational theories are flawed: it is suggested that relations typically championed by informational theories are neither necessary nor sufficient for scientific representation, and that any theory excluding functions is inadequate. In this paper I critically examine these arguments, and contend that, as it turns out, informational and functional theories are importantly complementary.
Keywords Scientific representation  Theory  Model  Target system  Similarity  Isomorphism
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 23,189
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Mauricio Suarez (2003). Scientific Representation: Against Similarity and Isomorphism. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 17 (3):225-244.

View all 25 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Woosuk Park (2014). Misrepresentation in Context. Foundations of Science 19 (4):363-374.

View all 11 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

76 ( #62,475 of 1,940,952 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

18 ( #36,903 of 1,940,952 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.