The ontology of theoretical modelling: Models as make-believe

Synthese 172 (2):301-315 (2010)
Abstract
The descriptions and theoretical laws scientists write down when they model a system are often false of any real system. And yet we commonly talk as if there were objects that satisfy the scientists’ assumptions and as if we may learn about their properties. Many attempt to make sense of this by taking the scientists’ descriptions and theoretical laws to define abstract or fictional entities. In this paper, I propose an alternative account of theoretical modelling that draws upon Kendall Walton’s ‘make-believe’ theory of representation in art. I argue that this account allows us to understand theoretical modelling without positing any object of which scientists’ modelling assumptions are true.
Keywords Models  Fiction  Representation  Imagination  Make-believe
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References found in this work BETA
Arthur Fine (1993). Fictionalism. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 18 (1):1-18.
Roman Frigg (2010). Models and Fiction. Synthese 172 (2):251 - 268.

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Citations of this work BETA
Adam Toon (2011). Playing with Molecules. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 42 (4):580-589.
Adam Toon (2012). Similarity and Scientific Representation. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 26 (3):241-257.
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