Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2006)

Jeffrey Koperski
Saginaw Valley State University
The word “model” is highly ambiguous, and there is no uniform terminology used by either scientists or philosophers. Here, a model is considered to be a representation of some object, behavior, or system that one wants to understand. This article presents the most common type of models found in science as well as the different relations—traditionally called “analogies”—between models and between a given model and its subject. Although once considered merely heuristic devices, they are now seen as indispensable to modern science. There are many different types of models used across the scientific disciplines, although there is no uniform terminology to classify them. The most familiar are physical models such as scale replicas of bridges or airplanes. These, like all models, are used because of their “analogies” to the subjects of the models. A scale model airplane has a structural similarity or “material analogy” to the full scale version. This correspondence allows engineers to infer dynamic properties of the airplane based on wind tunnel experiments on the replica. Physical models also include abstract representations which often include idealizations such as frictionless planes and point masses. Another, but completely different type of model, is constituted by sets of equations. These mathematical models were not always deemed legitimate models by philosophers. Model-to-subject and model-to-model relations are described using several different types of analogies: positive, negative, neutral, material, and formal.
Keywords model  models  science  analogies  analogy  physical
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 61,089
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

Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
80 ( #130,927 of 2,439,697 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #282,463 of 2,439,697 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes