Modelling molecules: Beyond the epistemic-pragmatic dichotomy

Abstract
I argue that scientific explanation has a pragmatic dimension that is epistemically relevant. Philosophers with an objectivist approach to scientific explanation (e.g. Hempel, Trout) hold that the pragmatic aspects of explanation do not have any epistemic import. I argue against this view by focusing on the role of models in scientific explanation. Applying recent accounts of modelling (Cartwright, Morgan and Morrison) to a case-study of nineteenth-century physics, I analyse the pragmatic dimension of the process of model construction. I highlight the crucial roles that conceptual tools, skills, and commitments play in this dimension, and show how they contribute to the epistemic aim of science.
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