Journal for General Philosophy of Science

, Volume 48, Issue 2, pp 173–194 | Cite as

Visual Metaphors in the Sciences: The Case of Epigenetic Landscape Images

  • Jan BaedkeEmail author
  • Tobias Schöttler


Recent philosophical analyses of the epistemic dimension of images in the sciences show a certain trend in acknowledging potential roles of these images beyond their merely decorative or pedagogical functions. We argue, however, that this new debate has yet paid little attention to a special type of pictures, we call ‘visual metaphor’, and its versatile heuristic potential in organizing data, supporting communication, and guiding research, modeling, and theory formation. Based on a case study of Conrad Hal Waddington’s epigenetic landscape images in biology, we develop a descriptive framework applicable to heuristic roles of various visual metaphors in the sciences.


Conrad Hal Waddington Epigenetic landscape Modelling Scientific images Theory formation Visual metaphor 



The authors would like two anonymous referees and the editors of JGPS for their helpful remarks.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy IRuhr University BochumBochumGermany
  2. 2.DFG Research Group ‘Visibility and Visual Production’University of PotsdamPotsdamGermany

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