Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 3-36

First online:

Modeling in the museum: On the role of remnant models in the work of Joseph Grinnell

  • James R. GriesemerAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, University of California Davis

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Accounts of the relation between theories and models in biology concentrate on mathematical models. In this paper I consider the dual role of models as representations of natural systems and as a material basis for theorizing. In order to explicate the dual role, I develop the concept of a remnant model, a material entity made from parts of the natural system(s) under study. I present a case study of an important but neglected naturalist, Joseph Grinnell, to illustrate the extent to which mundane practices in a museum setting constitute theorizing. I speculate that historical and sociological analyses of institutions can play a specific role in the philosophical analysis of model-building strategies.

Key words

Material models semantic view of theories natural history ecology evolution museums Joseph Grinnell