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  1. Abstraction and its Limits: Finding Space For Novel Explanation.Eleanor Knox - 2016 - Noûs 50 (1):41-60.
    Several modern accounts of explanation acknowledge the importance of abstraction and idealization for our explanatory practice. However, once we allow a role for abstraction, questions remain. I ask whether the relation between explanations at different theoretical levels should be thought of wholly in terms of abstraction, and argue that changes of the quantities in terms of which we describe a system can lead to novel explanations that are not merely abstractions of some more detailed picture. I use the example of (...)
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  • Explanation and Understanding Through Scientific Models.Richard David-Rus - 2012 - Institutul European.
  • The Kac Ring or the Art of Making Idealisations.Julie Jebeile - 2020 - Foundations of Physics 50 (10):1152-1170.
    In 1959, mathematician Mark Kac introduced a model, called the Kac ring, in order to elucidate the classical solution of Boltzmann to the problem of macroscopic irreversibility. However, the model is far from being a realistic representation of something. How can it be of any help here? In philosophy of science, it is often argued that models can provide explanations of the phenomenon they are said to approximate, in virtue of the truth they contain, and in spite of the idealisations (...)
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  • A Theory of Scientific Study.Robert Luk - 2017 - Foundations of Science 22 (1):11-38.
    This paper presents a theory of scientific study which is regarded as a social learning process of scientific knowledge creation, revision, application, monitoring and dissemination with the aim of securing good quality, general, objective, testable and complete scientific knowledge of the domain. The theory stipulates the aim of scientific study that forms the basis of its principles. It also makes seven assumptions about scientific study and defines the major participating entities. It extends a recent process model of scientific study into (...)
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  • Abstract Considerations: Disciplines and the Incoherence of Newton’s Natural Philosophy.Rob Iliffe - 2004 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 35 (3):427-454.
    Historians have long sought putative connections between different areas of Newton’s scientific work, while recently scholars have argued that there were causal links between even more disparate fields of his intellectual activity. In this paper I take an opposite approach, and attempt to account for certain tensions in Newton’s ‘scientific’ work by examining his great sensitivity to the disciplinary divisions that both conditioned and facilitated his early investigations in science and mathematics. These momentous undertakings, exemplified by research that he wrote (...)
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  • De-Idealizing Disagreement, Rethinking Relativism.Katherina Kinzel & Martin Kusch - 2018 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 26 (1):40-71.
    Relativism is often motivated in terms of certain types of disagreement. In this paper, we survey the philosophical debates over two such types: faultless disagreement in the case of gustatory conflict, and fundamental disagreement in the case of epistemic conflict. Each of the two discussions makes use of a implicit conception of judgement: brute judgement in the case of faultless disagreement, and rule-governed judgement in the case of fundamental disagreement. We show that the prevalent accounts work with unreasonably high levels (...)
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  • Berkeley, Newton, Explanation, and Causation.Richard Brook - 2019 - Ruch Filozoficzny 74 (4):21.
    Berkeley, Newton, Explanation, and Causation -/- I argue in this paper that Berkeley’s conception of natural law explanations, which echoes Newton’s, fails to solve a fundamental problem, which I label “explanatory asymmetry"; that the model of explanation Berkeley uses fails to distinguish between explanations and justifications, particularly since Berkeley denies real (efficient causes) in non-minded nature. At the end I suggest Berkeley might endorse a notion of understanding, say in astronomy or mechanics, which could be distinguished from explanation.
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  • The role of idealisations in describing an isolated molecule.Vanessa A. Seifert - 2020 - Foundations of Chemistry 22 (1):15-29.
    The investigation of the relation between chemistry and quantum mechanics includes examining how the two theories each describe an isolated molecule. This paper focuses on one particular characteristic of chemistry’s and quantum mechanics’ descriptions of an isolated molecule; namely on the assumptions made by each description that an isolated molecule is stable and has structure. The paper argues that these assumptions are an idealisation. First, this is because stability and structure are partially determined by factors that concern the context in (...)
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  • The Role of Idealisations in Describing an Isolated Molecule.Vanessa A. Seifert - 2020 - Foundations of Chemistry 22 (1):15-29.
    The investigation of the relation between chemistry and quantum mechanics includes examining how the two theories each describe an isolated molecule. This paper focuses on one particular characteristic of chemistry’s and quantum mechanics’ descriptions of an isolated molecule; namely on the assumptions made by each description that an isolated molecule is stable and has structure. The paper argues that these assumptions are an idealisation. First, this is because stability and structure are partially determined by factors that concern the context in (...)
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  • We talk to people, not contexts.Daniel W. Harris - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (9):2713-2733.
    According to a popular family of theories, assertions and other communicative acts should be understood as attempts to change the context of a conversation. Contexts, on this view, are publicly shared bodies of information that evolve over the course of a conversation and that play a range of semantic and pragmatic roles. I argue that this view is mistaken: performing a communicative act requires aiming to change the mind of one’s addressee, but not necessarily the context. Although changing the context (...)
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  • Calculus and Counterpossibles in Science.Brian McLoone - forthcoming - Synthese.
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  • The Evidential Significance of Thought Experiment in Science.James W. McAllister - 1996 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 27 (2):233-250.
  • Reflections on 25 Years of Journal Editorship.Michael R. Matthews - 2015 - Science & Education 24 (5-6):749-805.
    These reflections range over some distinctive features of the journal Science & Education, they acknowledge in a limited way the many individuals who over the past 25 years have contributed to the success and reputation of the journal, they chart the beginnings of the journal, and they dwell on a few central concerns—clear writing and the contribution of HPS to teacher education. The reflections also revisit the much-debated and written-upon philosophical and pedagogical arguments occasioned by the rise and possible demise (...)
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  • It’s Not a Game: Accurate Representation with Toy Models.James Nguyen - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (3):1013-1041.
    Drawing on ‘interpretational’ accounts of scientific representation, I argue that the use of so-called ‘toy models’ provides no particular philosophical puzzle. More specifically; I argue that once one gives up the idea that models are accurate representations of their targets only if they are appropriately similar, then simple and highly idealized models can be accurate in the same way that more complex models can be. Their differences turn on trading precision for generality, but, if they are appropriately interpreted, toy models (...)
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  • From Paradigm-Based Explanation to Pragmatic Genealogy.Matthieu Queloz - 2020 - Mind 129 (515):683-714.
    Why would philosophers interested in the points or functions of our conceptual practices bother with genealogical explanations if they can focus directly on paradigmatic examples of the practices we now have?? To answer this question, I compare the method of pragmatic genealogy advocated by Edward Craig, Bernard Williams, and Miranda Fricker—a method whose singular combination of fictionalising and historicising has met with suspicion—with the simpler method of paradigm-based explanation. Fricker herself has recently moved towards paradigm-based explanation, arguing that it is (...)
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  • Models and Explanation.Alisa Bokulich - 2017 - In Lorenzo Magnani & Tommaso Wayne Bertolotti (eds.), Springer Handbook of Model-Based Science. Springer. pp. 103-118.
    Detailed examinations of scientific practice have revealed that the use of idealized models in the sciences is pervasive. These models play a central role in not only the investigation and prediction of phenomena, but in their received scientific explanations as well. This has led philosophers of science to begin revising the traditional philosophical accounts of scientific explanation in order to make sense of this practice. These new model-based accounts of scientific explanation, however, raise a number of key questions: Can the (...)
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  • On Structural Accounts of Model-Explanations.Martin King - 2016 - Synthese 193 (9):2761-2778.
    The focus in the literature on scientific explanation has shifted in recent years towards model-based approaches. In recent work, Alisa Bokulich has argued that idealization has a central role to play in explanation. Bokulich claims that certain highly-idealized, structural models can be explanatory, even though they are not considered explanatory by causal, mechanistic, or covering law accounts of explanation. This paper focuses on Bokulich’s account in order to make the more general claim that there are problems with maintaining that a (...)
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  • Are We Sims? How Computer Simulations Represent and What This Means for the Simulation Argument.Claus Beisbart - 2014 - The Monist 97 (3):399-417.
    N. Bostrom’s simulation argument and two additional assumptions imply that we likely live in a computer simulation. The argument is based upon the following assumption about the workings of realistic brain simulations: The hardware of a computer on which a brain simulation is run bears a close analogy to the brain itself. To inquire whether this is so, I analyze how computer simulations trace processes in their targets. I describe simulations as fictional, mathematical, pictorial, and material models. Even though the (...)
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  • Maxwell, Helmholtz, and the Unreasonable Effectiveness of the Method of Physical Analogy.Alisa Bokulich - 2015 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 50:28-37.
    The fact that the same equations or mathematical models reappear in the descriptions of what are otherwise disparate physical systems can be seen as yet another manifestation of Wigner's “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics.” James Clerk Maxwell famously exploited such formal similarities in what he called the “method of physical analogy.” Both Maxwell and Hermann von Helmholtz appealed to the physical analogies between electromagnetism and hydrodynamics in their development of these theories. I argue that a closer historical examination of the different (...)
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  • Gigerenzer’s Evolutionary Arguments Against Rational Choice Theory: An Assessment.Armin Schulz - 2011 - Philosophy of Science 78 (5):1272-1282.
    I critically discuss a recent innovation in the debate surrounding the plausibility of rational choice theory : the appeal to evolutionary theory. Specifically, I assess Gigerenzer and colleagues’ claim that considerations based on natural selection show that, instead of making decisions in a RCT-like way, we rely on ‘simple heuristics’. As I try to make clearer here, though, Gigerenzer and colleagues’ arguments are unconvincing: we lack the needed information about our past to determine whether the premises on which they are (...)
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  • Causal Concepts Guiding Model Specification in Systems Biology.Dana Matthiessen - 2017 - Disputatio 9 (47):499-527.
    In this paper I analyze the process by which modelers in systems biology arrive at an adequate representation of the biological structures thought to underlie data gathered from high-throughput experiments. Contrary to views that causal claims and explanations are rare in systems biology, I argue that in many studies of gene regulatory networks modelers aim at a representation of causal structure. In addressing modeling challenges, they draw on assumptions informed by theory and pragmatic considerations in a manner that is guided (...)
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  • Philosophy of Chemistry.Michael Weisberg, Paul Needham & Robin Hendry - 2011 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Chemistry is the study of the structure and transformation of matter. When Aristotle founded the field in the 4th century BCE, his conceptual grasp of the nature of matter was tailored to accommodate a relatively simple range of observable phenomena. In the 21st century, chemistry has become the largest scientific discipline, producing over half a million publications a year ranging from direct empirical investigations to substantial theoretical work. However, the specialized interest in the conceptual issues arising in chemistry, hereafter Philosophy (...)
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  • Robustness Analysis and Tractability in Modeling.Chiara Lisciandra - 2017 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 7 (1):79-95.
    In the philosophy of science and epistemology literature, robustness analysis has become an umbrella term that refers to a variety of strategies. One of the main purposes of this paper is to argue that different strategies rely on different criteria for justifications. More specifically, I will claim that: i) robustness analysis differs from de-idealization even though the two concepts have often been conflated in the literature; ii) the comparison of different model frameworks requires different justifications than the comparison of models (...)
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  • On Rationales for Cognitive Values in the Assessment of Scientific Representations.Gertrude Hirsch Hadorn - 2018 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 49 (3):319-331.
    Cognitive values like simplicity, broad scope, and easy handling are properties of a scientific representation that result from the idealization which is involved in the construction of a representation. These properties may facilitate the application of epistemic values to credibility assessments, which provides a rationale for assigning an auxiliary function to cognitive values. In this paper, I defend a further rationale for cognitive values which consists in the assessment of the usefulness of a representation. Usefulness includes the relevance of a (...)
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  • Models and the Semantic View.Martin Thomson-Jones - 2006 - Philosophy of Science 73 (5):524-535.
    I begin by distinguishing two notions of model, the notion of a truth-making structure and the notion of a mathematical model (in one specific sense). I then argue that although the models of the semantic view have often been taken to be both truth-making structures and mathematical models, this is in part due to a failure to distinguish between two ways of truth-making; in fact, the talk of truth-making is best excised from the view altogether. The result is a version (...)
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  • Scientific Understanding and Felicitous Legitimate Falsehoods.Insa Lawler - forthcoming - Synthese:1-29.
    Science is replete with falsehoods that epistemically facilitate understanding by virtue of being the very falsehoods they are. In view of this puzzling fact, some have relaxed the truth requirement on understanding. I offer a factive view of understanding that fully accommodates the puzzling fact in four steps: (i) I argue that the question how these falsehoods are related to the phenomenon to be understood and the question how they figure into the content of understanding it are independent. (ii) I (...)
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  • Modelos, idealizaciones: una crítica del ficcionalismo.Alejandro Cassini - 2013 - Principia: An International Journal of Epistemology 17 (3):345.
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  • Asymmetry, Abstraction, and Autonomy: Justifying Coarse-Graining in Statistical Mechanics.Katie Robertson - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (2):547-579.
    While the fundamental laws of physics are time-reversal invariant, most macroscopic processes are irreversible. Given that the fundamental laws are taken to underpin all other processes, how can the fundamental time-symmetry be reconciled with the asymmetry manifest elsewhere? In statistical mechanics, progress can be made with this question. What I dub the ‘Zwanzig–Zeh–Wallace framework’ can be used to construct the irreversible equations of SM from the underlying microdynamics. Yet this framework uses coarse-graining, a procedure that has faced much criticism. I (...)
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  • The Real Problem with Perturbative Quantum Field Theory.James D. Fraser - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (2):391-413.
    The perturbative approach to quantum field theory has long been viewed with suspicion by philosophers of science. This article offers a diagnosis of its conceptual problems. Drawing on Norton’s discussion of the notion of approximation I argue that perturbative QFT ought to be understood as producing approximations without specifying an underlying QFT model. This analysis leads to a reassessment of common worries about perturbative QFT. What ends up being the key issue with the approach on this picture is not mathematical (...)
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  • An Inferential Account of Model Explanation.Wei Fang - 2019 - Philosophia 47 (1):99-116.
    This essay develops an inferential account of model explanation, based on Mauricio Suárez’s inferential conception of scientific representation and Alisa Bokulich’s counterfactual account of model explanation. It is suggested that the fact that a scientific model can explain is essentially linked to how a modeler uses an established model to make various inferences about the target system on the basis of results derived from the model. The inference practice is understood as a two-step activity, with the first step involving making (...)
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  • Explaining with Models: The Role of Idealizations.Julie Jebeile & Ashley Graham Kennedy - 2015 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 29 (4):383-392.
    Because they contain idealizations, scientific models are often considered to be misrepresentations of their target systems. An important question is therefore how models can explain the behaviours of these systems. Most of the answers to this question are representationalist in nature. Proponents of this view are generally committed to the claim that models are explanatory if they represent their target systems to some degree of accuracy; in other words, they try to determine the conditions under which idealizations can be made (...)
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  • Hypothetical Pattern Idealization and Explanatory Models.Yasha Rohwer & Collin C. Rice - 2013 - Philosophy of Science 80 (3):334-355.
  • Expanding the Scope of Explanatory Idealization.Andrew Wayne - 2011 - Philosophy of Science 78 (5):830-841.
    Many explanations in physics rely on idealized models of physical systems. These explanations fail to satisfy the conditions of standard normative accounts of explanation. Recently, some philosophers have claimed that idealizations can be used to underwrite explanation nonetheless, but only when they are what have variously been called representational, Galilean, controllable or harmless idealizations. This paper argues that such a half-measure is untenable and that idealizations not of this sort can have explanatory capacities.
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  • Idealization.Alkistis Elliott-Graves & Michael Weisberg - 2014 - Philosophy Compass 9 (3):176-185.
    This article reviews the recent literature on idealization, specifically idealization in the course of scientific modeling. We argue that idealization is not a unified concept and that there are three different types of idealization: Galilean, minimalist, and multiple models, each with its own justification. We explore the extent to which idealization is a permanent feature of scientific representation and discuss its implications for debates about scientific realism.
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  • Approximation and Idealization: Why the Difference Matters.John D. Norton - 2012 - Philosophy of Science 79 (2):207-232.
    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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  • The Content of Model-Based Information.Raphael van Riel - 2015 - Synthese 192 (12):3839-3858.
    The paper offers an account of the structure of information provided by models that relevantly deviate from reality. It is argued that accounts of scientific modeling according to which a model’s epistemic and pragmatic relevance stems from the alleged fact that models give access to possibilities fail. First, it seems that there are models that do not give access to possibilities, for what they describe is impossible. Secondly, it appears that having access to a possibility is epistemically and pragmatically idle. (...)
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  • Factive Scientific Understanding Without Accurate Representation.Collin C. Rice - 2016 - Biology and Philosophy 31 (1):81-102.
    This paper analyzes two ways idealized biological models produce factive scientific understanding. I then argue that models can provide factive scientific understanding of a phenomenon without providing an accurate representation of the features of their real-world target system. My analysis of these cases also suggests that the debate over scientific realism needs to investigate the factive scientific understanding produced by scientists’ use of idealized models rather than the accuracy of scientific models themselves.
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  • How Scientific Models Can Explain.Alisa Bokulich - 2011 - Synthese 180 (1):33 - 45.
    Scientific models invariably involve some degree of idealization, abstraction, or nationalization of their target system. Nonetheless, I argue that there are circumstances under which such false models can offer genuine scientific explanations. After reviewing three different proposals in the literature for how models can explain, I shall introduce a more general account of what I call model explanations, which specify the conditions under which models can be counted as explanatory. I shall illustrate this new framework by applying it to the (...)
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  • The Explanation Paradox.Julian Reiss - 2012 - Journal of Economic Methodology 19 (1):43-62.
    This paper examines mathematical models in economics and observes that three mutually inconsistent hypotheses concerning models and explanation are widely held: (1) economic models are false; (2) economic models are nevertheless explanatory; and (3) only true accounts explain. Commentators have typically resolved the paradox by rejecting either one of these hypotheses. I will argue that none of the proposed resolutions work and conclude that therefore the paradox is genuine and likely to stay.
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  • Economic Modelling as Robustness Analysis.Jaakko Kuorikoski, Aki Lehtinen & Caterina Marchionni - 2010 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 61 (3):541-567.
    We claim that the process of theoretical model refinement in economics is best characterised as robustness analysis: the systematic examination of the robustness of modelling results with respect to particular modelling assumptions. We argue that this practise has epistemic value by extending William Wimsatt's account of robustness analysis as triangulation via independent means of determination. For economists robustness analysis is a crucial methodological strategy because their models are often based on idealisations and abstractions, and it is usually difficult to tell (...)
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  • Buyer Beware: Robustness Analyses in Economics and Biology.Jay Odenbaugh & Anna Alexandrova - 2011 - Biology and Philosophy 26 (5):757-771.
    Theoretical biology and economics are remarkably similar in their reliance on mathematical models, which attempt to represent real world systems using many idealized assumptions. They are also similar in placing a great emphasis on derivational robustness of modeling results. Recently philosophers of biology and economics have argued that robustness analysis can be a method for confirmation of claims about causal mechanisms, despite the significant reliance of these models on patently false assumptions. We argue that the power of robustness analysis has (...)
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  • When Scientific Models Represent.Daniela M. Bailer-Jones - 2003 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 17 (1):59 – 74.
    Scientific models represent aspects of the empirical world. I explore to what extent this representational relationship, given the specific properties of models, can be analysed in terms of propositions to which truth or falsity can be attributed. For example, models frequently entail false propositions despite the fact that they are intended to say something "truthful" about phenomena. I argue that the representational relationship is constituted by model users "agreeing" on the function of a model, on the fit with data and (...)
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  • Making Models Count.Anna Alexandrova - 2008 - Philosophy of Science 75 (3):383-404.
    What sort of claims do scientific models make and how do these claims then underwrite empirical successes such as explanations and reliable policy interventions? In this paper I propose answers to these questions for the class of models used throughout the social and biological sciences, namely idealized deductive ones with a causal interpretation. I argue that the two main existing accounts misrepresent how these models are actually used, and propose a new account. *Received July 2006; revised August 2008. †To contact (...)
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  • Stabilization of Phenomenon and Meaning: On the London & London Episode as a Historical Case in Philosophy of Science.Jan Potters - 2019 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 9 (2):23.
    In recent years, the use of historical cases in philosophy of science has become a proper topic of reflection. In this article I will contribute to this research by means of a discussion of one very famous example of case-based philosophy of science, namely the debate on the London & London model of superconductivity between Cartwright, Suárez and Shomar on the one hand, and French, Ladyman, Bueno and Da Costa on the other. This debate has been going on for years, (...)
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  • La valeur de l'incertitude : l'évaluation de la précision des mesures physiques et les limites de la connaissance expérimentale.Fabien Grégis - 2016 - Dissertation, Université Sorbonne Paris Cité Université Paris.Diderot (Paris 7)
    Abstract : A measurement result is never absolutely accurate: it is affected by an unknown “measurement error” which characterizes the discrepancy between the obtained value and the “true value” of the quantity intended to be measured. As a consequence, to be acceptable a measurement result cannot take the form of a unique numerical value, but has to be accompanied by an indication of its “measurement uncertainty”, which enunciates a state of doubt. What, though, is the value of measurement uncertainty? What (...)
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  • Lightning in a Bottle: Complexity, Chaos, and Computation in Climate Science.Jon Lawhead - 2014 - Dissertation, Columbia University
    Climatology is a paradigmatic complex systems science. Understanding the global climate involves tackling problems in physics, chemistry, economics, and many other disciplines. I argue that complex systems like the global climate are characterized by certain dynamical features that explain how those systems change over time. A complex system's dynamics are shaped by the interaction of many different components operating at many different temporal and spatial scales. Examining the multidisciplinary and holistic methods of climatology can help us better understand the nature (...)
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  • The Genealogical Method in Epistemology.Martin Kusch & Robin McKenna - forthcoming - Synthese 197 (3):1057-1076.
    In 1990 Edward Craig published a book called Knowledge and the State of Nature in which he introduced and defended a genealogical approach to epistemology. In recent years Craig’s book has attracted a lot of attention, and his distinctive approach has been put to a wide range of uses including anti-realist metaepistemology, contextualism, relativism, anti-luck virtue epistemology, epistemic injustice, value of knowledge, pragmatism and virtue epistemology. While the number of objections to Craig’s approach has accumulated, there has been no sustained (...)
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  • Can Classical Structures Explain Quantum Phenomena?Alisa Bokulich - 2008 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 59 (2):217-235.
    In semiclassical mechanics one finds explanations of quantum phenomena that appeal to classical structures. These explanations are prima facie problematic insofar as the classical structures they appeal to do not exist. Here I defend the view that fictional structures can be genuinely explanatory by introducing a model-based account of scientific explanation. Applying this framework to the semiclassical phenomenon of wavefunction scarring, I argue that not only can the fictional classical trajectories explain certain aspects of this quantum phenomenon, but also that (...)
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  • A Verisimilitudinarian Analysis of the Linda Paradox.Gustavo Cevolani, Vincenzo Crupi & Roberto Festa - 2012 - VII Conference of the Spanish Society for Logic, Methodology and Philosphy of Science.
    The Linda paradox is a key topic in current debates on the rationality of human reasoning and its limitations. We present a novel analysis of this paradox, based on the notion of verisimilitude as studied in the philosophy of science. The comparison with an alternative analysis based on probabilistic confirmation suggests how to overcome some problems of our account by introducing an adequately defined notion of verisimilitudinarian confirmation.
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  • Emergence Without Limits: The Case of Phonons.Alexander Franklin & Eleanor Knox - 2018 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 64:68-78.
    Recent discussions of emergence in physics have focussed on the use of limiting relations, and often particularly on singular or asymptotic limits. We discuss a putative example of emergence that does not fit into this narrative: the case of phonons. These quasi-particles have some claim to be emergent, not least because the way in which they relate to the underlying crystal is almost precisely analogous to the way in which quantum particles relate to the underlying quantum field theory. But there (...)
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