The main aim of this paper is to disentangle three senses in which we can say that a model represents a system—denotation epistemic representation, and successful epistemic representation--and to individuate what questions arise from each sense of the notion of representation as used in this context. Also, I argue that a model is an epistemic representation of a system only if a user adopts a general interpretation of the model in terms of a system. In the process, I hope to (...) clarify where those who, following Craig Callander and Jonathan Cohen, claim that there is no special problem about scientific representation go wrong. In the terminology adopted here, even if scientific representation is only an instance of epistemic representation, scientific representation should not be confounded with denotation. (shrink)
In this paper, I consider how different versions of the similarity account of scientific representation might apply to a simple case of scientific representation, in which a model is used to predict the behaviour of a system. I will argue that the similarity account is potentially susceptible to the problem of accidental similarities between the model and the system and that, if it is to avoid this problem, one has to specify which similarities have to hold between a model and (...) a system for the model to be a faithful representation of that system. The sort of similarity that needs to hold between the model and the system, I argue, is a “second-order” similarity rather than simply a “first-order” similarity. This will not only avoid the problem but hopefully will contribute to dispelling the impression that an account of representation based on similarity is hopelessly vague. (shrink)
Mereological nihilism is the thesis that there are no composite objects—i.e. objects with proper material parts. One of the main advantages of mereological nihilism is that it allows its supporters to avoid a number of notorious philosophical puzzles. However, it seems to offer this advantage only at the expense of certain widespread and deeply entrenched beliefs. In particular, it is usually assumed that mereological nihilism entails eliminativism about ordinary objects—i.e. the counterintuitive thesis that there are no such things as tables, (...) apples, cats, and the like. In this paper, I argue that this assumption is false—mereological nihilists do not need to be eliminativists about tables, apples, or cats. Non-eliminativist nihilists claim that all it takes for there to be a cat is that there are simples arranged cat-wise. More specifically, non-eliminative nihilists argue that expressions such as ‘the cat’ in sentences such as ‘The cat is on the mat’ do not refer to composite objects but only to simples arranged cat-wise and compare this metaphysical discovery to the scientific discovery that ‘water’ refers to dihydrogen oxide. Non-eliminative nihilism, I argue, is not only a coherent position, but it is preferable to its more popular, eliminativist counterpart, as it enjoys the key benefits of nihilism without incurring the prohibitive costs of eliminativism. Moreover, unlike conciliatory strategies adopted by eliminative nihilists, non-eliminative nihilism allow its supporters to account not only for how we can assert something true by saying ‘The cat is on the mat’ but also for how we can believe something true by believing that the cat is on the mat. (shrink)
The Simple Counterfactual Analysis (SCA) was once considered the most promising analysis of disposition ascriptions. According to SCA, disposition ascriptions are to be analyzed in terms of counterfactual conditionals. In the last few decades, however, SCA has become the target of a battery of counterexamples. In all counterexamples, something seems to be interfering with a certain object’s having or not having a certain disposition thus making the truth-values of the disposition ascription and of its associated counterfactual come apart. Intuitively, however, (...) it would seem that, if all interferences were absent, the disposition ascription and its associated conditional would have the same truth-value. Although this idea may seem obvious, it is far from obvious how to implement it. In fact, it has become widely assumed that the content of qualifying ceteris paribus clauses (such as ‘if all interferences were absent’) cannot be specified in a clear and non-circular manner. In this paper, I will argue that this assumption is wrong. I will develop an analysis of disposition ascriptions, the Interference-Free Counterfactual Analysis, which relies on a clear and non-circular definition of the notion of interference and avoids the standard counterexamples to SCA while vindicating the intuition that disposition ascriptions and counterfactual conditionals are intimately related. (shrink)
In this paper, I distinguish two often-conflated theses—the thesis that all dispositions are intrinsic properties and the thesis that the causal bases of all dispositions are intrinsic properties—and argue that the falsity of the former does not entail the falsity of the latter. In particular, I argue that extrinsic dispositions are a counterexample to first thesis but not necessarily to the second thesis, because an extrinsic disposition does not need to include any extrinsic property in its causal basis. I conclude (...) by drawing some general lessons about the nature of dispositions and their relation to their causal bases. (shrink)
My two daughters would love to go tobogganing down the hill by themselves, but they are just toddlers and I am an apprehensive parent, so, before letting them do so, I want to ensure that the toboggan won’t go too fast. But how fast will it go? One way to try to answer this question would be to tackle the problem head on. Since my daughters and their toboggan are initially at rest, according to classical mechanics, their final velocity will (...) be determined by the forces they will be subjected to between the moment the toboggan will be released at the top of the hill and the moment it will reach its highest speed. The problem is that, throughout their downhill journey, my daughters and the toboggan will be subjected to an incredibly large number of forces—from the gravitational pull of any massive object in the universe to the weight of the snowflake that is sitting on the tip of one of my youngest daughter’s hairs—so that any attempt to apply the theory directly to the real-world system in all its complexity seems to be doomed to failure. (shrink)
In this paper, I distinguish between two varieties of actualism—hardcore actualism and softcore actualism—and I critically discuss Ross Cameron’s recent arguments for preferring a softcore actualist account of the truthmakers for modal truths over hardcore actualist ones. In the process, I offer some arguments for preferring the hardcore actualist account of modal truthmakers over the softcore actualist one.
In this paper, I distinguish scientific models in three kinds on the basis of their ontological status—material models, mathematical models and fictional models, and develop and defend an account of fictional models as fictional objects—i.e. abstract objects that stand for possible concrete objects.
People often use expressions such as ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and ‘Pegasus’ that appear to refer to imaginary objects. In this paper, I consider the main attempts to account for apparent reference to imaginary objects available in the literature and argue that all fall short of being fully satisfactory. In particular, I consider the problems of two main options to maintain that imaginary objects are real and reference to them is genuine reference: possibilist and abstractist account. According to the former, imaginary objects (...) are possible concrete objects. According to the latter, imaginary objects are actual abstract objects. I will then propose an account, the dualist account, which, I argue, combines the respective advantages of both accounts without sharing any of their respective disadvantages. According to this account, imaginary objects are not fully reducible to either abstract objects or possible objects: they are abstract artefacts that, in some contexts, stand for possible objects. (shrink)
In this note, I argue that a dynamically shifted world—i.e. a world identical to our own except for a fixed constant difference in the absolute acceleration of each object—is nomically impossible in a Newtonian world populated by finitely many objects. A dynamic shift however seems to be nomically possible in a world populated by infinitely many objects, but only in a broad sense of nomic possibility.
Today most philosophers of science believe that models play a central role in science and that one of the main functions of scientific models is to represent systems in the world. Despite much talk of models and representation, however, it is not yet clear what representation in this context amounts to nor what conditions a certain model needs to meet in order to be a representation of a certain system. In this thesis, I address these two questions. First, I will (...) distinguish three senses in which something, a vehicle, can be said to be a representation of something else, a target—which I will call respectively denotation, epistemic representation, and faithful epistemic representation—and I will argue that the last two senses are the most important in this context. I will then outline a general account of what makes a vehicle an epistemic representation of a certain target for a certain user—which, according to the account I defend, is the fact that a user adopts what I call an interpretation of the vehicle in terms of the target—and of what makes an epistemic representation of a certain target a faithful epistemic representation of it—which, according to the account I defend, is a specific sort of structural similarity between the vehicle and the target. (shrink)
In this paper, I develop Mauricio Suárez’s distinction between denotation, epistemic representation, and faithful epistemic representation. I then outline an interpretational account of epistemic representation, according to which a vehicle represents a target for a certain user if and only if the user adopts an interpretation of the vehicle in terms of the target, which would allow them to perform valid (but not necessarily sound) surrogative inferences from the model to the system. The main difference between the interpretational conception I (...) defend here and Suárez’s inferential conception is that the interpretational account is a substantial account—interpretation is not just a “symptom” of representation; it is what makes something an epistemic representation of a something else. (shrink)
Hanoch Ben-Yami has argued that the theory of the semantics of natural kind terms proposed by Kripke and Putnam is false and has proposed an allegedly novel account of the semantics of kind terms. In this article, I critically examine Ben-Yami’s arguments. I will argue that Ben-Yami’s objections do not show that Kripke and Putnam’s theory is false, but at most that the specific versions of it held by Kripke and Putnam have some weaknesses. Moreover, I will argue that Ben-Yami’s (...) account is not a novel account but it is only an unsatisfactory version of Kripke and Putnam’s theory. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that, contrary to the constructive empiricist’s position, observability is not an adequate criterion as a guide to ontological commitment in science. My argument has two parts. First, I argue that the constructive empiricist’s choice of observability as a criterion for ontological commitment is based on the assumption that belief in the existence of unobservable entities is unreasonable because belief in the existence of an entity can only be vindicated by its observation. Second, I argue that (...) the kind of ontological commitment that is under consideration when accepting a scientific theory is commitment to what I call theoretical kinds and that observation can vindicate commitment to kinds only in exceptional cases. (shrink)
The thesis that a temporal asymmetry of counterfactual dependence characterizes our world plays a central role in Lewis’s philosophy, as. among other things, it underpins one of Lewis most renowned theses—that causation can be analyzed in terms of counterfactual dependence. To maintain that a temporal asymmetry of counterfactual dependence characterizes our world, Lewis committed himself to two other theses. The first is that the closest possible worlds at which the antecedent of a counterfactual conditional is true is one in which (...) a small miracle occurs—i.e. one whose laws differ from the actual laws in a small spatiotemporal region. The second is that our world is characterized by a temporal asymmetry of miracles. In this paper, I will argue, first, that the latter thesis is either false or incompatible with the picture of the relations among temporal asymmetries endorsed by Lewis and, second, that former thesis conflicts with some of the intuitions which seem to guide us when engaging in counterfactual reasoning. If there is any fact of the matter as to which possible worlds in which the antecedent of a counterfactual conditional is true are closest to the actual world, these are not worlds at which a small miracle occurs. (shrink)