Idealized laws, antirealism, and applied science: A case in hydrogeology

Synthese 81 (3):329 - 352 (1989)
Authors
Kristin Shrader-Frechette
University of Notre Dame
Abstract
When is a law too idealized to be usefully applied to a specific situation? To answer this question, this essay considers a law in hydrogeology called Darcy''s Law, both as it is used in what is called the symmetric-cone model, and as it is used in equations to determine a well''s groundwater velocity and hydraulic conductivity. After discussing Darcy''s law and its applications, the essay concludes that this idealized law, as well as associated models and equations in hydrogeology, are not realistic in the sense required by the D-N account. They exhibit what McMullin calls mathematical idealization, construct idealization, empirical-causal idealization, and subjunctive-causal idealization. Yet this lack of realism in hydrogeology is problematic for reasons unrelated to the status of the D-N account. These idealizations are also problematic in applied situations. Their problems require developing two supplemental criteria, necessary for their productive application.
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DOI 10.1007/BF00869320
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References found in this work BETA

How the Laws of Physics Lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - Oxford University Press.
The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory.Pierre Maurice Marie Duhem - 1954 - Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Galilean Idealization.Ernan McMullin - 1985 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 16 (3):247-273.
The Many Sciences and the One World.Geoffrey Joseph - 1980 - Journal of Philosophy 77 (12):773-791.

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