Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: How models represent
Author: Nguyen, James
ISNI:       0000 0004 6349 4714
Awarding Body: London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
Current Institution: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Date of Award: 2016
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Full text unavailable from EThOS. Please try the link below.
Access from Institution:
Scientific models are important, if not the sole, units of science. This thesis addresses the following question: in virtue of what do scientific models represent their target systems? In Part i I motivate the question, and lay out some important desiderata that any successful answer must meet. This provides a novel conceptual framework in which to think about the question (or questions) of scientific representation. I then argue against Callender and Cohen’s (2006) attempt to diffuse the question. In Part ii I investigate the ideas that scientific models are ‘similar’, or structurally (iso)morphic, to their target systems. I argue that these approaches are misguided, and that at best these relationships concern the accuracy of a pre-existing representational relationship. I also pay particular attention to the sense in which target systems can be appropriately taken to exhibit a ‘structure’, and van Fraassen’s (2008) recent argument concerning the pragmatic equivalence between representing phenomena and data. My next target is the idea that models should not be seen as objects in their own right, but rather what look like descriptions of them are actually direct descriptions of target systems, albeit not ones that should be understood literally. I argue that these approaches fail to do justice to the practice of scientific modelling. Finally I turn to the idea that how models represent is grounded, in some sense, in their inferential capacity. I compare this approach to anti-representationalism in the philosophy of language and argue that analogous issues arise in the context of scientific representation. Part iii contains my positive proposal. I provide an account of scientific representation based on Goodman and Elgin’s notion of representation-as. The result is a highly conventional account which is the appropriate level of generality to capture all of its instances, whilst remaining informative about the notion. I illustrate it with reference to the Phillips-Newlyn machine, models of proteins, and the Lotka-Volterra model of predator-prey systems. These examples demonstrate how the account must be understood, and how it sheds light on our understanding of how models are used. I finally demonstrate how the account meets the desiderata laid out at the beginning of the thesis, and outline its implications for further questions from the philosophy of science; not limited to issues surrounding the applicability of mathematics, idealisation, and what it takes for a model to be ‘true’.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: B Philosophy (General)