Advertisement

The Ontology of Models

  • Axel Gelfert
Part of the Springer Handbooks book series (SHB)

Abstract

The term scientific model picks out a great many things, including scale models, physical models, sets of mathematical equations, theoretical models, toy models, and so forth. This raises the question of whether a general answer to the question What is a model? is even possible. This chapter surveys a number of philosophical approaches that bear on the question of what, in general, a scientific model is. While some approaches aim for a unitary account that would apply to models in general, regardless of their specific features, others take as their basic starting point the manifest heterogeneity of models in scientific practice. This chapter first motivates the ontological question of what models are by reflecting on the diversity of different kinds of models and arguing that models are best understood as functional entities. It then provides some historical background regarding the use of analogy in science as a precursor to contemporary notions of scientific model. This is followed by a contrast between the syntactic and the semantic views of theories and models and their different stances toward the question of what a model is. Scientists, too, typically operate with tacit assumptions about the ontological status of models: this gives rise to what has been called the folk ontology of models, according to which models may be thought of as descriptions of missing (i. e., uninstantiated) systems. There is a close affinity between this view and recent philosophical positions (to be discussed in the penultimate section) according to which models are fictions. This chapter concludes by considering various pragmatic conceptions of models, which are typically associated with what may be called mixed ontologies, that is, with the view that any quest for a unitary account of the nature of models is bound to be fruitless.

Keywords

Target System Scientific Model Semantic View Functional Entity Billiard Ball 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.
1-D

one-dimensional

DDI

denotation, demonstration, interpretation

GCM

general circulation model

References

  1. 1.
    R. Frigg: Models in science. In: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. by E.N. Zalta http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/models-science/ (Spring 2012 Edition)
  2. 2.
    N. Goodman: Languages of Art (Bobbs-Merrill, Indianapolis 1968)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    R. Ankeny, S. Leonelli: What’s so special about model organisms?, Stud. Hist. Philos. Sci. 42(2), 313–323 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    M. Black: Models and Metaphors: Studies in Language and Philosophy (Cornell Univ. Press, Ithaca 1962)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    P. Achinstein: Concepts of Science: A Philosophical Analysis (Johns Hopkins, Baltimore 1968)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    J. von Neumann: Method in the physical sciences. In: Collected Works Vol. VI. Theory of Games, Astrophysics, Hydrodynamics and Meteorology, ed. by A.H. Taub (Pergamon, Oxford 1961) pp. 491–498Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    S. French: Keeping quiet on the ontology of models, Synthese 172(2), 231–249 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    G. Contessa: Editorial introduction to special issue, Synthese 2010(2), 193–195 (2010)MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    S. Ducheyne: Towards an ontology of scientific models, Metaphysica 9(1), 119–127 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    R. Giere: Using models to represent reality. In: Model-Based Reasoning in Scientific Discovery, ed. by L. Magnani, N. Nersessian, P. Thagard (Plenum, New York 1999) pp. 41–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    A. Chakravartty: Informational versus functional theories of scientific representation, Synthese 217(2), 197–213 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    R.I.G. Hughes: Models and representation, Proc. Philos. Sci., Vol. 64 (1997) pp. S325–226Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    T. Knuuttila: Some consequences of the pragmatist approach to representation. In: EPSA Epistemology and Methodology of Science, ed. by M. Suárez, M. Dorato, M. Rédei (Springer, Dordrecht 2010) pp. 139–148Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    M. Suárez: An inferential conception of scientific representation, Proc. Philosophy of Science, Vol. 71 (2004) pp. 67–779Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    M. Jammer: Die Entwicklung des Modellbegriffs in den physikalischen Wissenschaften, Stud. Gen. 18(3), 166–173 (1965)zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    P. Duhem: The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory (Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton 1954), Transl. by P.P. WienerzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    D. Bailer-Jones: Models, metaphors and analogies. In: The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Science, ed. by P. Machamer, M. Silberstein (Blackwell, Oxford 2002) pp. 108–127Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    D.H. Mellor: Models and analogies in science: Duhem versus Campbell?, Isis 59(3), 282–290 (1968)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    D. Bailer-Jones: Scientific Models in Philosophy of Science (Univ. Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh 2009)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    M. Hesse: Models and Analogies in Science (Sheed Ward, London 1963)Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    N.R. Campbell: Physics: The Elements (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge 1920)Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    J.M. Soskice, R. Harré: Metaphor in science. In: From a Metaphorical Point of View: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Cognitive Content of Metaphor, ed. by Z. Radman (de Gruyter, Berlin 1995) pp. 289–308Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    C. Liu: Models and theories I: The semantic view revisited, Int. Stud. Philos. Sci. 11(2), 147–164 (1997)MathSciNetCrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    R. Carnap: Foundations of Logic and Mathematics (Univ. Chicago Press, Chicago 1939)zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    R. Hendry, S. Psillos: How to do things with theories: An interactive view of language and models in science. In: The Courage of Doing Philosophy: Essays Presented to Leszek Nowak, ed. by J. Brzeziński, A. Klawiter, T.A.F. Kuipers, K. Lastowksi, K. Paprzycka, P. Przybyzs (Rodopi, Amsterdam 2007) pp. 123–158Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    N. Cartwright: Models and the limits of theory: Quantum hamiltonians and the BCS model of superconductivity. In: Models as Mediators, ed. by M. Morrison, M. Morgan (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge 1999) pp. 241–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    F. Suppe: The Semantic Conception of Theories and Scientific Realism (Univ. Illinois Press, Urbana 1989)Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    P. Suppes: A comparison of the meaning and uses of models in mathematics and the empirical sciences, Synthese 12(2/3), 287–301 (1960)MathSciNetCrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    B. van Fraassen: The Scientific Image (Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford 1980)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    M. Thomson-Jones: Models and the semantic view, Philos. Sci. 73(4), 524–535 (2006)MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    P. Suppes: Introduction to Logic (Van Nostrand, Princeton 1957)zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    N. da Costa, S. French: Science and Partial Truth: A Unitary Approach to Models and Scientific Reasoning (Oxford Univ. Press, New York 2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    S. French: The structure of theories. In: The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Science, 2nd edn., ed. by M. Curd, S. Psillos (Routledge, London 2013) pp. 301–312Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    C. Pincock: Overextending partial structures: Idealization and abstraction, Philos. Sci. 72(4), 1248–1259 (2005)MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    M. Suárez, N. Cartwright: Theories: Tools versus models, Stud. Hist. Philos. Mod. Phys. 39(1), 62–81 (2008)CrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    P. Godfrey-Smith: The strategy of model-based science, Biol. Philos. 21(5), 725–740 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    M. Thomson-Jones: Missing systems and the face value practice, Synthese 172(2), 283–299 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    P.N. Johnson-Laird: Mental Models (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge 1983)Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    N. Nersessian: Model-based reasoning in conceptual change. In: Model-Based Reasoning in Scientific Discovery, ed. by L. Magnani, N. Nersessian, P. Thagard (Plenum, New York 1999) pp. 5–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    J.C. Maxwell: The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell, Vol. 1 (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge 1890), ed. by W.D. NivenzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    R. Frigg: Models and fiction, Synthese 172(2), 251–268 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    A.C. Doyle: The Adventure of the Three Garridebs. In: The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, ed. by J. Miller (Dover, 2005)Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    A. Meinong: Untersuchungen zur Gegenstandstheorie und Psychologie (Barth, Leipzig 1904)Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    K. Walton: Mimesis as Make-Believe: On the Foundations of the Representational Arts (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge 1990)Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    A. Toon: Models as Make-Believe: Imagination, Fiction, and Scientific Representation (Palgrave-Macmillan, Basingstoke 2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    A. Toon: The ontology of theoretical modelling: Models as make-believe, Synthese 172(2), 301–315 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    H.G. Wells: War of the Worlds (Penguin, London 1897), 1978Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    R. Giere: How models are used to represent reality, Proc. Philosophy of Science, Vol. 71 (2004) pp. S742–S752Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    M. Morrison, M. Morgan (Eds.): Models as Mediators (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge 1999)Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    M. Morrison, M. Morgan: Models as mediating instruments. In: Models as Mediators, ed. by M. Morrison, M. Morgan (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge 1999) pp. 10–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    T. Knuuttila: Models as Epistemic Artefacts: Toward a Non-Representationalist Account of Scientific Representation (Univ. Helsinki, Helsinki 2005)Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    T. Knuuttila: Modelling and representing: An artefactual approach to model-based representation, Stud. Hist. Philos. Sci. 42(2), 262–271 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    A. Gelfert: How to Do Science with Models: A Philosophical Primer (Springer, Cham 2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dept. of PhilosophyNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore

Personalised recommendations