Alexandrova, Anna, and . Making Models Count

2008, Philosophy of Science 75(3): 383-404.

Abstract: What sort of claims do scientific models make and how do these claims then underwrite empirical successes such as explanations and reliable policy interventions? In this paper I propose answers to these questions for the class of models used throughout the social and biological sciences, namely idealized deductive ones with a causal interpretation. I argue that the two main existing accounts misrepresent how these models are actually used, and propose a new account.

Comment: A good exploration of the role of models in scientific practice. Provides a good overview of the main theories about models, and some objections to them, before suggesting an alternative. Good use of concrete examples, presented very clearly. Suitable for undergraduate teaching. Would form a useful part of an examination of modelling in philosophy of science.

Blanchette, Patricia, and . Models and Modality

2000, Synthese 124(1): 45-72.

Abstract: This paper examines the connection between model-theoretic truth and necessary truth. It is argued that though the model-theoretic truths of some standard languages are demonstrably “necessary” (in a precise sense), the widespread view of model-theoretic truth as providing a general guarantee of necessity is mistaken. Several arguments to the contrary are criticized.

Comment: This text would be best used as secondary reading in an intermediate or an advanced philosophy of logic course. For example, it can be used as a secondary reading in a section on the connection between model-theoretic truth and necessary truth.

Bokulich, Alisa, and . How scientific models can explain

2009, Synthese 180(1): 33-45.

Abstract: Scientific models invariably involve some degree of idealization, abstraction, or fictionalization of their target system. Nonetheless, I argue that there are circumstances under which such false models can offer genuine scientific explanations. After reviewing three different proposals in the literature for how models can explain, I shall introduce a more general account of what I call model explanations, which specify the conditions under which models can be counted as explanatory. I shall illustrate this new framework by applying it to the case of Bohr’s model of the atom, and conclude by drawing some distinctions between phenomenological models, explanatory models, and fictional models.

Comment: Interesting paper about scientific modelling. It is easy to read and could serve as an introduction to the topic. The paper explores three approaches to Model Explanations: mechanist model explanations, covering-law model explanations, and causal model explanations. The explanatory function in models is illustrated with the example of Bohr's atom. This article is recommended for undergraduate students.

Cartwright, Nancy, and . How the Laws of Physics Lie

1983, Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Note: Nancy Cartwright argues for a novel conception of the role of fundamental scientific laws in modern natural science. If we attend closely to the manner in which theoretical laws figure in the practice of science, we see that despite their great explanatory power these laws do not describe reality. Instead, fundamental laws describe highly idealized objects in models. Thus, the correct account of explanation in science is not the traditional covering law view, but the ‘simulacrum’ account. On this view, explanation is a matter of constructing a model that may employ, but need not be consistent with, a theoretical framework, in which phenomenological laws that are true of the empirical case in question can be derived. Anti?realism about theoretical laws does not, however, commit one to anti?realism about theoretical entities. Belief in theoretical entities can be grounded in well?tested localized causal claims about concrete physical processes, sometimes now called ‘entity realism’. Such causal claims provide the basis for partial realism and they are ineliminable from the practice of explanation and intervention in nature.

Comment: Essential reading on realism and anti-realism about the laws of nature. Recommended for undergraduates who have prior knowledge of Humeanism about laws and for postgraduates in general. The book consists of a series of philosophical essays that can be used independently.

Chuang, Liu, and . Models, fiction and fictional models

2014, In Guichun Guo, Chuang Liu (eds.) Scientific Explanation and Methodology in Science, World Scientific Publishing Co.

Summary: The use of models to scientifically represent and study reality is widely recognized with good reasons as indispensable for the practice of science. Because models, unlikely pure verbal representation, are justifiably regarded as vehicles of representation that are not truth-apt, philosophical questions are natural raised concerning the nature of such vehicles and how they represent. A sizeable literature generated in recent years explores the possibility that ”scientific models are works of fiction”. Idealization and other similar strategies are often taken to be the means by which models are made. Arguing against this last claim, the thesis of this article is that most models in science are not fictional. The author argues against the idea that idealization is the means by which models of typically unobservable systems or mechanisms are made.

Comment: Interesting paper about scientific modeling and scientific representation. Useful for undergraduates and postgraduates courses in philosophy of science.

Elgin, Catherine, and . Understanding and The Facts

2007, Philosophical Studies 132: 33-42.

Abstract: If understanding is factive, the propositions that express an understanding are true. I argue that a factive conception of understanding is unduly restrictive. It neither reflects our practices in ascribing understanding nor does justice to contemporary science. For science uses idealizations and models that do not to mirror the facts. Strictly speaking, they are false. By appeal to exemplification, I devise a more generous, flexible conception of understanding that accommodates science, reflects our practices, and shows a sufficient but not slavish sensitivity to the facts.

Comment: This paper could be used in an undergraduate or graduate course on epistemology, philosophy of science, or any area in which the nature of understanding is at issue. The paper is quite brief and not particularly technical. It makes a good case for a claim that initially sounds very counterintuitive, so can serve as a good prompt for a discussion.

Hesse, Mary, and . The Hunt for Scientific Reason

1980, PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1980: 3-22.

Abstract: The thesis of underdetermination of theory by evidence has led to an opposition between realism and relationism in philosophy of science. Various forms of the thesis are examined, and it is concluded that it is true in at least a weak form that brings realism into doubt. Realists therefore need, among other things, a theory of degrees of confirmation to support rational theory choice. Recent such theories due to Glymour and Friedman are examined, and it is argued that their criterion of “unification” for good theories is better formulated in Bayesian terms. Bayesian confirmation does, however, have consequences that tell against realism. It is concluded that the prospects are dim for scientific realism as usually understood.

Comment: Good article to study in depth the concepts of realism, underdetermination, confirmation and Bayesian theory. It will be most useful for postgraduate students in philosophy of science.

Hesse, Mary, and . Models and analogies in science

1966, University of Notre dame Press.

Summary: In this book Hesse argues, contra Duhem, that models and analogies are integral to understanding scientific practice in general and scientific advancement in particular, especially how the domain of a scientific theory is extended and how theories generate genuinely novel predictions. Hesse thinks that, in order help us to understand a new system or phenomenon, we will often create an analogical model that compares this new system or phenomenon with a more familiar system or phenomenon. Hesse distinguishes different types of analogies according to the kinds of similarity relations in which two objects enter: Positive analogies, negative analogies, and neutral analogies. The crux of the argument is that the recognition of similarities of meaning between paired terms and the recognition of similar causal relations within two analogies plays an essential role in theoretical explanation and prediction in science.

Comment: This book is an accessible introduction to the topic of scientific modelling. Useful for teaching in undergraduate courses.

Hesse, Mary, and . Models in Physics

1953, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 4(15): 198-214.

Summary: In this article Hesse defends the idea that scientific theories are hypothetico-deductive in form. She examines this hypothetico-deductive method by considering some examples from nineteenth-century mathematical physics. By means of these examples she brings out two points about scientific hypothesis. The first is that mathematical formalisms, when used as hypotheses in the description of physical phenomena, may function like the mechanical models of an earlier stage in physics, without having in themselves any mechanical or other physical interpret. The second point is that most physicists do not regard models as literal descriptions of nature, but as standing in a relation of analogy to nature.

Comment: A really good paper about models in science, mathematical formalism and hypothesis. Highly recomended for postgraduates studying philosophy of physics, although it could also be readable by undergraduates (last years) with previous knowledge of scientific modelling.

Morrison, Margaret, and . Spin: All is not what it seems

2007, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 38(3): 529-55.

Abstract: Spin is typically thought to be a fundamental property of the electron and other elementary particles. Although it is defined as an internal angular momentum much of our understanding of it is bound up with the mathematics of group theory. This paper traces the development of the concept of spin paying particular attention to the way that quantum mechanics has influenced its interpretation in both theoretical and experimental contexts. The received view is that electron spin was discovered experimentally by Stern and Gerlach in 1921, 5 years prior to its theoretical formulation by Goudsmit and Uhlenbeck. However, neither Goudsmit nor Uhlenbeck, nor any others involved in the debate about spin cited the Stern-Gerlach experiment as corroborating evidence. In fact, Bohr and Pauli were emphatic that the spin of a single electron could not be measured in classical experiments. In recent years experiments designed to refute the Bohr-Pauli thesis and measure electron spin have been carried out. However, a number of ambiguities surround these results – ambiguities that relate not only to the measurements themselves but to the interpretation of the experiments. After discussing these various issues the author raises some philosophical questions about the ontological and epistemic status of spin.

Comment: The goal of the paper is to uncover and isolate how spin presents problems for traditional realism and to illustrate the power that theories like quantum mechanics have for shaping both philosophical questions and answers. It is adequate for higher-level postgraduate courses in Philosophy of Science.