, Volume 190, Issue 16, pp 3611-3623

Modeling without representation

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Abstract

How can mathematical models which represent the causal structure of the world incompletely or incorrectly have any scientific value? I argue that this apparent puzzle is an artifact of a realist emphasis on representation in the philosophy of modeling. I offer an alternative, pragmatic methodology of modeling, inspired by classic papers by modelers themselves. The crux of the view is that models developed for purposes other than explanation may be justified without reference to their representational properties.

“Representation” is used throughout to mean the relationship between the assumptions of a model and the world, which I take to be the sense employed by Weisberg when he argues that the “essential” feature of modeling is that it “involves indirect representation and analysis of real world phenomena” (2007b, pp. 209–10). This should not be confused with the mathematical sense of “representation” as characterized by representation theorems, see Sect. 3 for further discussion.