Martin Zach
Czech Academy of Sciences
Abstraction and idealization are the two notions that are most often discussed in the context of assumptions employed in the process of model building. These notions are also routinely used in philosophical debates such as that on the mechanistic account of explanation. Indeed, an objection to the mechanistic account has recently been formulated precisely on these grounds: mechanists cannot account for the common practice of idealizing difference-making factors in models in molecular biology. In this paper I revisit the debate and I argue that the objection does not stand up to scrutiny. This is because it is riddled with a number of conceptual inconsistencies. By attempting to resolve the tensions, I also draw several general lessons regarding the difficulties of applying abstraction and idealization in scientific practice. Finally, I argue that more care is needed only when speaking of abstraction and idealization in a context in which these concepts play an important role in an argument, such as that on mechanistic explanation.
Keywords abstraction  idealization  mechanistic explanation  molecular biology  scientific models
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DOI 10.1007/s13194-022-00453-1
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How the Laws of Physics Lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
True Enough.Catherine Z. Elgin - 2017 - Cambridge: MIT Press.
Nature's Capacities and Their Measurement.Nancy Cartwright - 1989 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

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