Making Sense of Smell: Classifications and Model Thinking in Olfaction Theory
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
to allow for papers to be published
This thesis addresses key issues of scientific realism in the philosophy of biology and chemistry through investigation of an underexplored research domain: olfaction theory, or the science of smell. It also provides the first systematic overview of the development of olfactory practices and research into the molecular basis of odours across the 19th and 20th century. Historical and contemporary explanations and modelling techniques for understanding the material basis of odours are analysed with a specific focus on the entrenchment of technological process, research tradition and the definitions of materiality for understanding scientific advancement. The thesis seeks to make sense of the explanatory and problem solving strategies, different ways of reasoning and the construction of facts by drawing attention to the role and application of scientific representations in olfactory practices. Scientific representations such as models, classifications, maps, diagrams, lists etc. serve a variety of purposes that range from the stipulation of relevant properties and correlations of the research materials and the systematic formation of research questions, to the design of experiments that explore or test particular hypotheses. By examining a variety of modelling strategies in olfactory research, I elaborate on how I understand the relation between representations and the world and why this relation requires a pluralist perspective on scientific models, methods and practices. Through this work I will show how a plurality of representations does not pose a problem for realism about scientific entities and their theoretical contexts but, on the contrary, that this plurality serves as the most reliable grounding for a realistic interpretation of scientific representations of the world and the entities it contains. The thesis concludes that scientific judgement has to be understood through its disciplinary trajectory, and that scientific pluralism is a direct consequence of the historicity of scientific development.
Barwich, Ann-Sophie (2013): A Pluralist Approach to Extension: The Role of Materiality in Scientific Practice for the Reference of Natural Kind Terms. Biological Theory 7(2), 100-108. URL=< http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13752-012-0083-x>
PhD in Philosophy