Visual representations in science

Philosophy of Science 76 (3):372-390 (2009)
Abstract
This paper evaluates a general argument for the conclusion that visual representations in science must play the role of truth bearers if they are to figure as legitimate contributors to scientific arguments and explanations. The argument is found to be unsound. An alternative approach to assessing the role of visual representations in science is exemplified by an examination of the role of structural formulas in organic chemistry. Structural formulas are found not to play the role of truth bearers; nonetheless, they contribute to the arguments and explanations of organic chemistry. An early success of conformational analysis is presented in order to illustrate the role of structural formulas in the discourse of organic chemistry. *Received January 2007; revised July 2009. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Rowan University, 201 Mullica Hill Road, Glassboro, NJ 08028; e‐mail: goodwin@rowan.edu.
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