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Scientific Models in Philosophy of Science

Daniela M. Bailer-Jones

Publication Year: 2009

Scientists have used models for hundreds of years as a means of describing phenomena and as a basis for further analogy. In this book, Bailer-Jones assembles an original and comprehensive philosophical analysis of how models have been used and interpreted in both historical and contemporary contexts. Bailer-Jones delineates the many forms models can take (ranging from equations to animals; from physical objects to theoretical constructs), and how they are put to use. She examines early mechanical models employed by nineteenth-century physicists such as Kelvin and Maxwell, describes their roots in the mathematical principles of Newton and others, and compares them to contemporary mechanistic approaches. Bailer-Jones then views the use of analogy in the late nineteenth century as a means of understanding models and to link different branches of science. She reveals how analogies can also be models themselves, or can help to create them. The first half of the twentieth century saw little mention of models in the literature of logical empiricism. Focusing primarily on theory, logical empiricists believed that models were of temporary importance, flawed, and awaiting correction. The later contesting of logical empiricism, particularly the hypothetico-deductive account of theories, by philosophers such as Mary Hesse, sparked a renewed interest in the importance of models during the 1950s that continues to this day. Bailer-Jones analyzes subsequent propositions of: models as metaphors; Kuhn's concept of a paradigm; the Semantic View of theories; and the case study approaches of Cartwright and Morrison, among others. She then engages current debates on topics such as phenomena versus data, the distinctions between models and theories, the concepts of representation and realism, and the discerning of falsities in models.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v

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pp. vii-viii

Daniela Bailer-Jones studied at the universities of Freiburg, Oxford, and Cambridge and from 1998 held positions in Paderborn, Bonn, and Pittsburgh, before setting up an Emmy-Noether research group in Heidelberg in 2005. She died on November 13, 2006, at the age of thirty-seven. ...

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pp. ix-x

This book traces the treatment of scientific models in philosophy of science. Taking my point of departure from nineteenth-century models in physics, I cover, in largely historical order, the topics of mechanism, analogy, theory, metaphor and paradigms, phenomena and representation. I elaborate what I take a scientific model to be and why I consider this notion of scientific model defensible.My goal is to show how models differ from theories and how they relate to the world. ...

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1 Scientific Models

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pp. 1-20

It is my aim in this book to present views on models across philosophy of science. This is done with the view to highlight philosophical issues that arise when thinking about scientific modeling. To orient the reader, I begin with an outline of my position of what a scientific model is in section 1.1. In section 1.2, I present results from interviews with scientists from various disciplines to illustrate what scientists think scientific models are. ...

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2 Mechanical Models

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pp. 21-45

According to some scholars (for example, Jammer 1965, p. 167), the concept of a model started to be used in science in the second half of the nineteenth-century. Models were used before that time, yet I take my point of departure from nineteenth-century models because these were the models to which twentieth-century philosophers of science mostly referred when they considered models in science.1 ...

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3 Analogy

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pp. 46-80

The occurrence of analogy has been closely associated with scientific modeling, as highlighted in the previous chapter. Scientific models are often based on analogies, and sometimes they are even said to be analogies. The topic of analogy arises almost naturally when models are discussed.1 Moreover, some of the constructs called “analogy” in the nineteenth century would today be routinely referred to as “models,” and it is reasonable to accept such an extension of the use of the term “model,” as Mary Hesse (1953) has suggested. ...

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4 Theories

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pp. 81-105

In the work of Faraday, Kelvin, and Maxwell, models were central tools for the development of scientific accounts. These models were predominantly mechanical models, and they frequently guided the mathematical treatment of increasingly less mechanical phenomena, such as electromagnetism (see chapter 2). Mathematical treatment of phenomena, in turn, is one factor that furthers the emergence of theoretical concepts. ...

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5 Paradigms and Metaphors

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pp. 106-125

Making scientific progress often requires thinking about a phenomenon in a novel manner. There exist at least a couple of articles, published in Philosophy of Science in 1951, that emphasize the role of models for thinking. Herman Meyer (1951) more or less equates models with mental pictures and views these mental pictures as a route toward linking mathematical expressions to observations. ...

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6 The Semantic View and the Study of Scientific Practice

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pp. 126-158

I spent some time explaining, in chapter 4, how theories were analyzed to the detriment of the study of models. Then I emphasized the need for models in science, highlighting their role in discovery and creativity, in chapter 5. The movement of models toward the center of philosophical attention has continued since, as I illustrate in this chapter and also in chapter 8. ...

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7 Phenomena, Data, and Data Models

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pp. 159-176

I defined a model as an interpretative description of a phenomenon in chapter 1, section 1.1. I said that “phenomenon” refers to events, facts, and processes and tacitly relies on an intuitive understanding of what a phenomenon is, and did so without providing further discussion. In this chapter, I rectify this omission by exploring what phenomena are and how they are constituted. ...

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8 Representation

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pp. 177-204

Talk about the issue of representation concerning scientific models is relatively recent in the philosophy of science. Broadly speaking, the topic belongs to the context of the debate about scientific realism. Is the real world the way that science portrays it? This question used to be addressed to scientific theories, but as we have seen, the way theories and models are understood has shifted considerably (see chapter 6). ...

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9 Conclusion

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pp. 205-209

This work on scientific models is now completed. It began in the present day, drawing from interviews with scientists who currently do research and actively employ models. Then I traced the history of the treatment of scientific models from nineteenth-century physics to twentieth-century philosophy of science. Some of this work belongs into the comparatively recent discipline of the history of philosophy of science and as such is a contribution to that discipline. ...

Bibliography of Contemporary Works on Scientific Models

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pp. 211-228


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pp. 229-235

E-ISBN-13: 9780822971238
E-ISBN-10: 0822971232
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822943761
Print-ISBN-10: 082294376X

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2009