The structure of asymptotic idealization
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Robert Batterman and others have argued that certain idealizing explanations have an asymptotic form: they account for a state of affairs or behavior by showing that it emerges “in the limit”. Asymptotic idealizations are interesting in many ways, but is there anything special about them as idealizations? To understand their role in science, must we augment our philosophical theories of idealization? This paper uses simple examples of asymptotic idealization in population genetics to argue for an affirmative answer and proposes a general schema for asymptotic idealization, drawing on insights from Batterman’s treatment and from John Norton’s subsequent critique.
KeywordsExplanation Idealization Models Population genetics Asymptotic idealization Infinite idealization
For invaluable discussion and feedback, thanks to Bob Batterman and John Norton, Kate Vredenburgh, the Research Triangle Philosophy of Science Reading Group, the audience at ISHPSSB 2013, and the anonymous reviewers at Synthese.
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