Models as make-believe
Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science
In this paper I propose an account of representation for scientific models based on Kendall Walton’s “make-believe” theory of representation in art. I first set out the problem of scientific representation and respond to a recent argument due to Craig Callender and Jonathan Cohen, which aims to show that the problem may be easily dismissed. I then introduce my account of models as props in games of make-believe and show how it offers a solution to the problem. Finally, I demonstrate an important advantage my account has over other theories of scientific representation. All existing theories analyze scientific representation in terms of relations, such as similarity or denotation. By contrast, my account does not take representation in modeling to be essentially relational. For this reason, it can accommodate a group of models often ignored in discussions of scientific representation, namely models which are representational but which represent no actual object.
Original article published in R. Frigg & M. Hunter (Eds.), Beyond Mimesis and Convention, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science (pp. 71-96). Dordrecht: Springer (2010)
Vol. 262, pp. 71 - 96
Place of publication