Thursday, November 15, 2007

Imagining Scientific Models?

Yesterday, at the LOGOS Seminar, Roman presented his views on scientific models (see also Manolo M’s discussion).

I was very sympathetic to Roman’s contention that “going fictionalist” in debates in metaphysics or the philosophy of mathematics of the philosophy of science need not help much—unless, of course, one has an illuminating general theory on fictions, and is in a position to substantiate the claim that the problematic entities are indeed fictions, in the sense of the theory.

This was indeed the aim of Roman’s paper, dwelling upon the “pretense theory.” As he himself acknowledged, there might be general problems with the view—what if the key normative notions employed ultimately make no sense—and specific problems with the intended application to scientific models—what if the sensible generation principles are relatively trivial, and the only truths in fiction are very close to the surface?—. In particular, I worried that there seemed to be a crucial disanalogy between literary works and descriptions of scientific models: although talk about imagination makes perfectly good sense in the former case, it seems to be at best metaphorical in the latter. As Roman seemed to agree in discussion, the relevant kind of act seems to be more that of consideringas opposed to imagining, I would say. But then the worry was that the contrast with the alternative so-called “formal” approaches turn out to be much less clear after all, as also pointed out by Jose.

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