Perspectivism, inconsistent models, and contrastive explanation

It is widely recognized that scientific theories are often associated with strictly inconsistent models, but there is little agreement concerning the epistemic consequences. Some argue that model inconsistency supports a strong perspectivism, according to which claims serving as interpretations of models are inevitably and irreducibly perspectival. Others argue that in at least some cases, inconsistent models can be unified as approximations to a theory with which they are associated, thus undermining this kind of perspectivism. I examine the arguments for perspectivism, and contend that its strong form is defeasible in principle, not merely in special cases. The argument rests on the plausibility of scientific knowledge concerning non-perspectival, dispositional facts about modelled systems. This forms the basis of a novel suggestion regarding how to understand the knowledge these models afford, in terms of a contrastive theory of what-questions.Keywords: Perspectivism; Perspectivalism; Relativism; Models; Dispositions; Contrastive explanation
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DOI 10.1016/j.shpsa.2010.10.007
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