External representations and scientific understanding

Synthese 192 (12):3817-3837 (2015)

Abstract

This paper provides an inferentialist account of model-based understanding by combining a counterfactual account of explanation and an inferentialist account of representation with a view of modeling as extended cognition. This account makes it understandable how the manipulation of surrogate systems like models can provide genuinely new empirical understanding about the world. Similarly, the account provides an answer to the question how models, that always incorporate assumptions that are literally untrue of the model target, can still provide factive explanations. Finally, the paper shows how the contrastive counterfactual theory of explanation can provide tools for assessing the explanatory power of models

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Author Profiles

Petri Ylikoski
University of Helsinki
Jaakko Kuorikoski
University of Helsinki