Biology and Philosophy 23 (4):509-528 (2008)

Sabina Leonelli
University of Exeter
What is the best way to analyse abstraction in scientific modelling? I propose to focus on abstracting as an epistemic activity, which is achieved in different ways and for different purposes depending on the actual circumstances of modelling and the features of the models in question. This is in contrast to a more conventional use of the term ‘abstract’ as an attribute of models, which I characterise as black-boxing the ways in which abstraction is performed and to which epistemological advantage. I exemplify my claims through a detailed reconstruction of the practices involved in creating two types of models of the flowering plant Arabidopsisthaliana, currently the best-known model organism in plant biology. This leads me to distinguish between two types of abstraction processes: the ‘material abstracting’ required in the production of Arabidopsis specimens and the ‘intellectual abstracting’ characterising the elaboration of visual models of Arabidopsis genomics. Reflecting on the differences between these types of abstracting helps to pin down the epistemic skills and research commitments used by researchers to produce each model, thus clarifying how models are handled by researchers and with which epistemological implications.
Keywords Philosophy   Evolutionary Biology   Philosophy of Biology
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DOI 10.1007/s10539-007-9081-y
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References found in this work BETA

How the Laws of Physics Lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - Oxford University Press.
Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge.Imre Lakatos & Alan Musgrave (eds.) - 1970 - Cambridge University Press.
Personal Knowledge.Michael Polanyi - 1958 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
The Tacit Dimension. --.Michael Polanyi & Amartya Sen - 1966 - Chicago, IL: University of Chicago.

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Citations of this work BETA

What’s so Special About Model Organisms?Rachel A. Ankeny & Sabina Leonelli - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 42 (2):313-323.
Model Organisms Are Not (Theoretical) Models.Arnon Levy & Adrian Currie - 2015 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 66 (2):327-348.
The Structure of Scientific Theories.Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther - 2015 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
What Distinguishes Data From Models?Sabina Leonelli - 2019 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 9 (2):22.
What Distinguishes Data From Models?Sabina Leonelli - 2019 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 9 (2):22.

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