Idealized Models Workshop, 6 Oct 2020

On Friday 06 Oct 2020, FraMEPhys hosted a one-day workshop at the Univeristy of Birmingham.

If you have any queries, please email f.longworth@bham.ac.uk

Schedule (times BST)

2.00-2.50pm: Arnon Levy (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
“Must the best explanation be true?”

3.00-3.50pm: Alkistis Elliott-Graves (Helsinki University/University of Bielefeld)
“What are general models about?”

4.00-4.50pm: James Nguyen (University of London)
“Why (at least some) idealisations aren’t false”

5.00-5.50pm: Angela Potochnik (University of Cincinatti)
“Why it matters that idealizations are false”

Abstracts

James Nguyen (University of London)
“Why (at least some) idealisations aren’t false”

In order to understand how idealised models contribute to the epistemic success of science we need to understand how they, and models in general, represent. I outline the, relatively commonly held, view that modelling is an indirect enterprise: model descriptions serve to specify model systems, which in turn represent their target systems. I argue that, suitably interpreted, the idealised aspects of these model systems needn’t be understood as misrepresentations. I then discuss the upshot of this way of thinking in terms of the factivity of explanation and understanding.

Angela Potochnik (University of Cincinatti)
“Why it matters that idealizations are false”

Many of our best scientific explanations incorporate idealizations, that is, false assumptions. Philosophers of science disagree about whether and to what extent we must, as a result, give up on truth as a prerequisite for explanation and thus understanding. I propose reframing this. Factivism or veritism about explanation is not, I think, an obvious and preferable view to be given up only under duress. Rather, it is philosophically fruitful to emphasize how departures from the truth facilitate explanation (and understanding). I begin by motivating one version of the idea that idealizations positively contribute to understanding, then I make the case that it is philosophically important to emphasize this contribution of idealizations. I conclude with a positive account of what theorists about science stand to gain by acknowledging, even emphasizing, how certain departures from the truth benefit our scientific explanations.

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