Archive for the ‘Models’ Category


DAY-O-WIPs 4.0

July 14, 2014

“The Nature of Models and Modeling: Two Perspectives” Yoichi Ishida

“The Curious History of the Footless Tortoise” Aaron Novick

Evan Pence


DAY-O-WIPs 3.0

June 16, 2014

“Scales of Motion, Atmospheric Dynamics and Clouds” Marina Baldissera Pacchetti

“William Henry Bragg and the Nature of X-Rays” Haixin Dang


Can there be spatially distributed parts in a mechanistic explanation?

June 9, 2014

Morgan Thompson

Abstract: Some mechanists maintain that mechanistic explanation is the ideal type of explanation in neuroscience and that mechanistic explanations can contain spatially distributed parts. There is a tension between these two claims. Carl Craver (2007) lists the following criteria for parts that are appropriate for featuring in mechanistic explanations: being detectable by multiple theoretically independent techniques (a la Wimsatt), having a stable cluster of properties (a la Boyd), being manipulatable, and being physiologically plausible. However, spatially distributed parts are not clearly appropriate on those criteria. I appeal to examples from neuroscience where researchers use multivariate pattern analysis to analyze spatially distributed networks. I conclude that mechanists should either adjust their criteria for parts appropriate for mechanisms so that they include spatially distributed parts or they should give up mechanistic explanation as the ideal explanatory scheme in neuroscience.



Idealization of scales of motion in atmospheric dynamics

March 14, 2014
Marina Baldissera Pacchetti
Abstract: I discuss the use of idealizations as descriptions in climate science, especially in dynamical models of stable systems in the atmosphere. I contrast two accounts of idealizations. The first account is one in which idealizations are departures from the target system that can be dispensed of for obtaining a more accurate description of said system.  According to the second account, idealizations are ineliminable. I use various examples from atmospheric dynamics to argue that qualitative organizational features of various atmospheric systems can only be described in terms of ineliminable idealizations.

Realism, Instrumentalism, and Uses of Models in Science

January 13, 2014

Yoichi Ishida

Abstract: This paper argues in support of Howard Stein’s idea that in successful scientific research, a scientist uses a model according to the methodological principles of realism and instrumentalism despite the tension that they create among the scientist’s uses of the model over time. After giving precise formulations of the realist and instrumentalist methodological principles, I argue for my thesis through a detailed analysis of successful scientific research done by Seymour Benzer in the 1950s and 60s. I then argue that epistemic realism or epistemic instrumentalism—forms of realism and instrumentalism familiar in the philosophical literature—by itself prohibits a scientist from adopting both the realist and instrumentalist methodological principles. Stein’s conjecture thus poses new challenges to realists and instrumentalists, and I briefly suggest possible avenues of response that realists and instrumentalists may take.

Day-O-WIPs Beta

June 17, 2013

The second installment of the “Day-O-WIPs” series:

“Toward a Philosophy of Synthetic Science” Julia Bursten

“Can Genes be Darwinian Individuals?” Haixin Dang

“Group Theory or No Group Theory: Understanding Atomic Spectra” Joshua Hunt

“Dynamical Models: A Type of Mathematical Explanation in Neuroscience and Medicine” Lauren Ross

“The Wax & the Mechanical Mind: Reexamining Hobbes’s Objections to Descartes’ Meditations” Marcus Adams


What is the “Paradox of Phase Transitions?”

October 26, 2012

Elay Shech

I present a novel approach to the recent scholarly debate that has arisen with respect to the  philosophical import one should infer from scientific accounts of “Phase Transitions,” by appealing to a distinction between “representation” understood as “denotation,” and “faithful representation” understood as a type of “guide to ontology.” It is argued that the entire debate of phase transitions is misguided for it stems from a pseudo-paradox that does not license the type of claims made by scholars, and that what is really interesting about phase transition is the manner by which they force us to rethink issues regarding scientific representation.