Living with the abstract: realism and models

Synthese 180 (1):3 - 17 (2011)
A natural way to think of models is as abstract entities. If theories employ models to represent the world, theories traffic in abstract entities much more widely than is often assumed. This kind of thought seems to create a problem for a scientific realist approach to theories. Scientific realists claim theories should be understood literally. Do they then imply (and are they committed to) the reality of abstract entities? Or are theories simply—and incurably—false (if there are no abstract entities)? Or has the very idea of literal understanding to be abandoned? Is then fictionalism towards scientific theories inevitable? This paper argues that scientific realism can happily co-exist with models qua abstracta.
Keywords Scientific realism  Models  Abstract entities  Duhem  Quine
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DOI 10.2307/41477537
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Antigone M. Nounou (2015). For or Against Structural Realism? A Verdict From High Energy Physics. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 49:84-101.
Edward Slowik (forthcoming). The ‘Space’ at the Intersection of Platonism and Nominalism. Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie:1-16.

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