Credibility, idealisation, and model building: An inferential approach

Erkenntnis 70 (1) (2009)

In this article we defend the inferential view of scientific models and idealisation. Models are seen as “inferential prostheses” (instruments for surrogative reasoning) construed by means of an idealisation-concretisation process, which we essentially understand as a kind of counterfactual deformation procedure (also analysed in inferential terms). The value of scientific representation is understood in terms not only of the success of the inferential outcomes arrived at with its help, but also of the heuristic power of representation and their capacity to correct and improve our models. This provides us with an argument against Sugden’s account of credible models: the likelihood or realisticness (their “credibility”) is not always a good measure of their acceptability. As opposed to “credibility” we propose the notion of “enlightening”, which is the capacity of giving us understanding in the sense of an inferential ability.
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