Explaining with Models: The Role of Idealizations

International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 29 (4):383-392 (2015)
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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 without jeopardizing the representational function of models. In this article, we first outline several forms of this representationalist view. We then argue that this view, in each of these forms, omits an important role of idealizations: that of facilitating the identification of the explanatory components within a model. Via examination of a case study from contemporary astrophysics, we show that one way in which idealizations can do this is by creating a comparison case that s...



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Author Profiles

Ashley Kennedy
Florida Atlantic University
Julie Jebeile
University of Bern

Citations of this work

Model Explanation Versus Model-Induced Explanation.Insa Lawler & Emily Sullivan - 2021 - Foundations of Science 26 (4):1049-1074.
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