Models as interpreters

Most philosophical accounts of scientific models assume that models represent some aspect, or some theory, of reality. They also assume that interpretation plays only a supporting role. This paper challenges both assumptions. It proposes that models can be used in science to interpret reality. (a) I distinguish these interpretative models from representational ones. They find new meanings in a target system’s behaviour, rather than fit its parts together. They are built through idealisation, abstraction and recontextualisation. (b) To show how interpretative models work, I offer a case study on the scientific controversy over foetal pain. It highlights how pain scientists use conflicting models to interpret the human foetus and its behaviour, and thereby to support opposing claims about whether the foetus can feel pain. (c) I raise a sceptical worry and a methodological challenge for interpretative models. To address the latter, I use my case study to compare how interpretative and representational models ought to be evaluated.
Keywords Scientific model  Interpretation  Representation  Meaning  Foetal pain
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1016/j.shpsa.2010.11.038
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive Chuanfei Chin, Models as interpreters
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Stuart Glennan (2005). Modeling Mechanisms. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 36 (2):443-464.
R. I. G. Hughes (1997). Models and Representation. Philosophy of Science 64 (4):336.

View all 14 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Ronald N. Giere (1999). Using Models to Represent Reality. In L. Magnani, N. J. Nersessian & P. Thagard (eds.), Model-Based Reasoning in Scientific Discovery. Kluwer/Plenum. pp. 41--57.
Kevin Reuter (2011). Distinguishing the Appearance From the Reality of Pain. Journal of Consciousness Studies 18 (9-10):94-109.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

193 ( #20,254 of 1,924,713 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

26 ( #18,292 of 1,924,713 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.