Scientific Models in Philosophy of Science

Scientific Models in Philosophy of Science

Daniela M. Bailer-Jones
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 248
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    Scientific Models in Philosophy of Science
    Book Description:

    Scientists have used models for hundreds of years as a means of describing phenomena and as a basis for further analogy. InScientific Models in Philosophy of Science,Daniela 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7123-8
    Subjects: General Science, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Coryn Bailer-Jones and Peter Machamer

    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.

    Daniela spent much of her working life thinking and writing about models in science and investigating how the concept of a model was used in philosophy of science. She was fascinated by the many different forms modeling could take and was deeply interested in their historical development and in how scientists themselves used and perceived models. She...

    (pp. ix-xii)
    (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. In section 1.3, I briefly discuss methodological difficulties of a philosophical study of models, and in section 1.4, I give an outline of the whole...

    (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 Whether physically built or hypothetically conceived, early models were mechanical.

    Being mechanical can mean two different things (cf. Schiemann 1997, pp. 21ff.):

    1. Mechanical may mean that a process is explained in terms of the principles...

  7. 3 ANALOGY
    (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 tobeanalogies. 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. The cases to which this extension of the term “model” applies are those where models...

    (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. Although mechanical approaches maintain the appearance of familiarity so that it would seem as if the mechanically explained process in question is directly observable, this is blatantly not the case when the approach becomes more mathematical. Indeed, The mathematization and abstractness of...

    (pp. 106-125)

    Making scientific progress often requires thinking about a phenomenon in novel manner. There exist at least a couple of articles, published inPhilosophy of Sciencein 1951, that emphasize the role of models for thinking. Herman Meyer (1951) more or less equates models withmental picturesand views these mental pictures as a route toward linking mathematical expressions to observations. He writes: “Many people ask for something that makes the meaning of those formulaeintuitively clear:They want a ‘mental picture’ re-establishing the connection between the perfectly abstract and often very abstruse mathematical formulae and direct observations made in laboratories...

    (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. Yet moving models to the center and out of the shadows obviously also changes the relationshipbetweenmodels and theories. The aim of this chapter is to elaborate where theory stands in this new picture. Although I...

    (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. Moreover, I examine the relationship between a phenomenon and the data derived from that phenomenon. Models, being about phenomena, are expected to match the available empirical data derived from the phenomena. The relationship between data and phenomena is,...

    (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). When it is said that a modelrepresentssomething, then this is taken to mean, roughly, that the model tells us what the phenomenon that is the subject of the model is...

    (pp. 205-210)

    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. My main gist is nevertheless philosophical. Often, however, being aware of historical developments in philosophy aids our understanding of philosophical issues, past and present. This is especially needed...

    (pp. 211-228)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 229-235)