How scientific models can explain

Synthese 180 (1):33 - 45 (2011)
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Abstract

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 case of Bohr's model of the atom, and conclude by drawing some distinctions between phenomenological models, explanatory models, and fictional models

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Alisa Bokulich
Boston University

References found in this work

Making Things Happen. A Theory of Causal Explanation.Michael Strevens - 2007 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (1):233-249.
Galilean Idealization.Ernan McMullin - 1985 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 16 (3):247.
When Mechanistic Models Explain.Carl F. Craver - 2006 - Synthese 153 (3):355-376.

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