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: 9,351
External links
  • Through your library Configure
    References found in this work BETA
    Anjan Chakravartty (2004). Structuralism as a Form of Scientific Realism. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 18 (2 & 3):151 – 171.

    View all 22 references

    Citations of this work BETA
    Ashley Graham Kennedy (2012). A Non Representationalist View of Model Explanation. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 43 (2):326-332.
    Similar books and articles

    Monthly downloads

    Added to index


    Total downloads

    35 ( #41,630 of 1,088,372 )

    Recent downloads (6 months)

    6 ( #17,182 of 1,088,372 )

    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.