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Title: Modelling Modelling
Keywords: philosophy,physics,models,theories,emergence,idealization
Issue Date: 17-Dec-2010
Citation: CHONG FU-ZHI JEREMY (2010-12-17). Modelling Modelling. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: Views on the status of scientific models range from blindly trusting -- scientific models provide an exact description of the physical world -- to dismissive -- scientific models are no more than mere fictions. How one sees the ability of scientific models to describe real physical situations is an important factor in the formulation of a view on scientific models. While the technological triumphs of the last few centuries have shown that science can produce excellent practical results, there is no a priori guarantee that science is not getting the right answers for the wrong reasons, or that science is merely getting the numbers almost right. We can gain insight into just how scientific models can describe real physical situations by understanding how scientists go about their business procedurally, as well as the sorts of reasoning that go into producing a scientific model. Given such an analysis, the representational legitimacy of scientific models in general, as well as that of any given scientific model, may be defended or defeated. In this work I argue for a philosophical model of scientific modelling, an upshot of which is that models can legitimately represent real physical systems -- not by virtue of the fact that there are those who take models to perform such a role, but by virtue of the fact that there are certain principles that, when upheld in the model-building process, ensure the representational integrity of scientific models. The structure of scientific modelling rests on these commitments: on the one hand, that models reflect the way the world is, and on the other, that models adapt to the myriad applications that scientists put them to. It also makes explicit the kinds of reasoning that go into producing scientific models, and so can potentially shed light on phenomena that may seem prima facie paradoxical. I show that this bears on a particular case of emergence, though the nature of emergence in general, and just how much the case of emergence that I present has in common with other cases of apparent emergence, remain open questions.
Appears in Collections:Master's Theses (Open)

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