Idealization and the Aims of Science

Chicago: University of Chicago Press (2017)
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Abstract

Science is the study of our world, as it is in its messy reality. Nonetheless, science requires idealization to function—if we are to attempt to understand the world, we have to find ways to reduce its complexity. Idealization and the Aims of Science shows just how crucial idealization is to science and why it matters. Beginning with the acknowledgment of our status as limited human agents trying to make sense of an exceedingly complex world, Angela Potochnik moves on to explain how science aims to depict and make use of causal patterns—a project that makes essential use of idealization. She offers case studies from a number of branches of science to demonstrate the ubiquity of idealization, shows how causal patterns are used to develop scientific explanations, and describes how the necessarily imperfect connection between science and truth leads to researchers’ values influencing their findings. The resulting book is a tour de force, a synthesis of the study of idealization that also offers countless new insights and avenues for future exploration.

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Angela Potochnik
University of Cincinnati

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