Reinflating the semantic approach

The semantic, or model-theoretic, approach to theories has recently come under criticism on two fronts: (i) it is claimed that it cannot account for the wide diversity of models employed in scientific practice—a claim which has led some to propose a “deflationary” account of models; (ii) it is further contended that the sense of “model” used by the approach differs from that given in model theory. Our aim in the present work is to articulate a possible response to these claims, drawing on recent developments within the semantic approach itself. Thus, the first is answered by utilizing the notion of a “partial structure”, first introduced in this context by da Costa and French in 1990. The second claim is undermined by consideration of van Fraassen's understanding of “model” which corresponds well with that evinced by modem mathematicians. This latter discussion, in particular, has an impact on the continuing debate regarding the relative merits of the semantic and syntactic views and the developments presented here can be taken to provide further support to the former.
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    Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther (2012). Interweaving Categories: Styles, Paradigms, and Models. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Part A 43 (4):628-639.
    Mauricio Suárez & Nancy Cartwright (2007). Theories: Tools Versus Models. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 39 (1):62-81.

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