Approximation and Idealization: Why the Difference Matters

Philosophy of Science 79 (2):207-232 (2012)
Abstract
It is proposed that we use the term “approximation” for inexact description of a target system and “idealization” for another system whose properties also provide an inexact description of the target system. Since systems generated by a limiting process can often have quite unexpected, even inconsistent properties, familiar limit systems used in statistical physics can fail to provide idealizations, but are merely approximations. A dominance argument suggests that the limiting idealizations of statistical physics should be demoted to approximations
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References found in this work BETA
David Atkinson (2007). Losing Energy in Classical, Relativistic and Quantum Mechanics. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 38 (1):170-180.
Robert Batterman (2005). Critical Phenomena and Breaking Drops: Infinite Idealizations in Physics. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 36 (2):225-244.
Gordon Belot (2005). Whose Devil? Which Details? Philosophy of Science 72 (1):128-153.

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Citations of this work BETA
N. P. Landsman (2013). Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking in Quantum Systems: Emergence or Reduction? Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 44 (4):379-394.
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Jeffry L. Ramsey (1992). Towards an Expanded Epistemology for Approximations. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1992:154 - 164.
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