Journal for General Philosophy of Science

, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 11-27

First online:

The Structure of Idealization in Biological Theories: The Case of the Wright-Fisher Model

  • Xavier de Donato RodríguezAffiliated withDepartment of Logic and Moral Philosophy, University of Santiago de Compostela Email author 
  • , Alfonso Arroyo SantosAffiliated withFacultad de Filosofía y Letras, Posgrado en Filosofía de la Ciencia, UNAM Email author 

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In this paper we present a new framework of idealization in biology. We characterize idealizations as a network of counterfactual and hypothetical conditionals that can exhibit different “degrees of contingency”. We use this idea to say that, in departing more or less from the actual world, idealizations can serve numerous epistemic, methodological or heuristic purposes within scientific research. We defend that, in part, this structure explains why idealizations, despite being deformations of reality, are so successful in scientific practice. For illustrative purposes, we provide an example from population genetics, the Wright-Fisher Model.


Idealization Epistemic virtues Scientific models Modeling in biology Population genetics Wright-Fisher Model