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Models and scientific representations or: who is afraid of inconsistency?


I argue that if we make explicit the role of the user of scientific representations not only in the application but also in the construction of a model or representation, then inconsistent modeling assumptions do not pose an insurmountable obstacle to our representational practices.

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  1. 1.

    Goodman (1976) is the locus classicus of criticisms of resemblance accounts.

  2. 2.

    See also Frisch (1998). A similar non-reductive account of representation is defended in Suárez (2004, 2010).

  3. 3.

    See also Giere (2006) for a similar spelling out of the representation relation.

  4. 4.

    See also Teller (2004).

  5. 5.

    Nor could they be true about what is observable.

  6. 6.

    This worry was suggested to me by Paul Teller.

  7. 7.

    I have discussed this inconsistency in Frisch (2004, 2005). My account has been criticized by Belot (2007) and Muller (2007), and criticized as well as partially defended by Vickers (2008). I respond to some of the criticisms in Frisch (2008, 2009).


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Research for this paper was conducted partly while I had a fellowship for experienced researchers by the Alexander-von-Humboldt Foundation at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich. I would like to thank C. Ulises Moulines and Wolfgang Pietsch for helpful discussions. I also want to thank Paul Teller and Peter Vickers for detailed comments on drafts of this paper.

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Correspondence to Mathias Frisch.

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Frisch, M. Models and scientific representations or: who is afraid of inconsistency?. Synthese 191, 3027–3040 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-014-0471-9

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  • Inconsistency
  • Representation
  • Classical electrodynamics
  • Models