CFP: Synthese Special Issue: "Infinite Idealizations in Science"

Submission deadline: April 15, 2017

Topic areas


Infinite idealizations are assumptions that play an important role in physics, biology, economics, and many others sciences. Putative examples include an infinite population size in population genetics, an infinite number of physical components of a system in the theory of phase transitions and an infinite number of persons consuming an infinite number of (infinitely divisible) goods in large-scale economic models. Although these idealizations are generally uncontroversial in the scientific community, they have been at the center of recent philosophical debates about reduction, explanation and the status of models in science.

The subject of infinite idealizations has received a good deal of attention in the last decade.  However the fact that philosophers of the particular sciences addressing these issues have largely kept within the confines of their own specialist literature has limited our general understanding of this kind of idealization.

This proposed special issue thus brings philosophers of physics, biology, economics, etc. together with the double goal of i) advancing our understanding on the appeal to infinite idealizations in the different sciences and ii) mapping what similarities and differences infinite idealizations may have across these fields.

Some of the questions this special issue aims to explore include (but are not limited to):

  • Are infinite idealizations compatible with reduction?
  • Can a model invoking an infinite idealization have explanatory power?
  • Are there other (non-explanatory) substantive roles that infinite idealizations play in science?
  • What explains the success of theories that appeal to infinite idealizations?
  • Are infinite idealizations compatible with scientific realism?
  • Are infinite idealizations substantially different from other idealizations?
  • Should infinite idealizations be understood as approximations?
  • Can infinite idealizations in the special sciences be justified in the same way as in physics?


Contributions must be original and not submitted elsewhere. Each submission should include a separate title page containing the author(s) contact details, a brief abstract and list of five keywords. All papers will be subject to double-blind peer-review. 

Manuscripts should be submitted online through the Synthese's Electronic Editorial System (Editorial Manager):

Please choose the appropriate article type for your submission by selecting S.I.: Infinite Idealizations in Science from the relevant drop down menu. 

For further details on how to prepare the manuscripts, please follow the author guidelines available on the journal’s website:

The deadline for submissions is April 15th, 2017.


Samuel C. Fletcher (Minnesota/MCMP)

Patricia Palacios (MCMP)

Laura Ruetsche (Michigan)

Elay Shech (Auburn)

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