Ludwig Boltzmann's bildtheorie and scientific understanding

Synthese 119 (1-2):113-134 (1999)
Boltzmann’s Bildtheorie, which asserts that scientific theories are ‘mental pictures’ having at best a partial similarity to reality, was a core element of his philosophy of science. The aim of this article is to draw attention to a neglected aspect of it, namely its significance for the issue of scientific explanation and understanding, regarded by Boltzmann as central goals of science. I argue that, in addition to being an epistemological view of the interpretation of scientific theories Boltzmann’s Bildtheorie has implications for the nature of scientific understanding. This aspect has as yet been ignored because discussion of the Bildtheorie has been restricted to the realism-instrumentalism debate. To elucidate my analysis of Boltzmann’s Bildtheorie concrete examples are presented, and the pragmatist and Darwinist roots of Boltzmann’s view are discussed. Moreover, I propose to use Boltzmann’s ideas as a starting-point for developing a novel analysis of the notion of scientific understanding, of which a brief impression is given. It shows that the study of Boltzmann’s philosophy is not only of historical interest but can be relevant also to modern philosophy of science and to the methodology of theoretical physics.
Keywords Philosophy   Philosophy   Epistemology   Logic   Metaphysics   Philosophy of Language
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1023/A:1005295304955
 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

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 24,433
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

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Henk W. de Regt (2001). Spacetime Visualisation and the Intelligibility of Physical Theories. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 32 (2):243-265.
Daniel Kuby (2016). Feyerabend's ‘The Concept of Intelligibility in Modern Physics’ (1948). Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 57:57–63.

View all 9 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

84 ( #57,546 of 1,925,094 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

26 ( #18,236 of 1,925,094 )

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.