, Volume 191, Issue 8, pp 1831–1845 | Cite as

Idealized and perspectival representations: some reasons for making a distinction



I argue that an adequate understanding of the practice of constructing models in physics requires a distinction between two strategies that are commonly both labeled ‘idealization’. The formal characteristic of both methods is to let a parameter in the equations for a target system go to zero. But the discussion of examples from various applications of perturbation theory shows that there is in general a difference with respect to the aims such limiting procedures are supposed to serve; and with different aims comes the need to characterize the means (the interpretation of the limits) differently. I therefore suggest that we distinguish ‘idealizations’ from ‘perspectives’ or perspectival representations.


Modeling in physics Scientific representation Perturbation theory Singular limits 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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