Explanatory Power II: Understanding through Modeling? Epistemology, Semantics, and Metaphysics of "Inadequate" Representation
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Part of the value of many scientific models depends upon their representational inadequacy. Idealization, approximation, and simplification are merits rather than defects of such models. Pragmatists and instrumentalists have argued extensively that this does not matter, as long as these models serve their descriptive or predictive purposes. However, such models seem to play a vital role in understanding and explaining reality and in giving us descriptions of what there is; prima facie, their function does not reduce to merely enabling us to somehow get along. As long as notions of understanding, explanation, ontology and knowledge are interpreted in non-pragmatist or non-instrumentalist terms, it is not at all clear how idealized models may help us understand the world, or how they can possibly exhibit something like explanatory power. In this workshop, we will address the representational nature of inadequate models on one hand, and the relation between the epistemic and explanatory nature of such models (and similar forms of representation) on the other.
Contact: vanriel@gmx [dot] de.
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