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44. Models and Analogies


Subject Philosophy

Key-Topics modeling, science

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631230205.2001.00047.x


Questions about the structure and justification of theories, the interpretation of data, and the problem of realism have been in the forefront of debate in recent philosophy of science, and the topic of models and analogies is increasingly recognized as integral to this debate. Models of physical matter and motion - for example, models of atoms and planetary systems - were already familiar in Greek science, but serious analysis of “model” as a concept entered philosophy of science only in the nineteenth century. This was largely the result of proliferation in classical physics of theoretical entities such as “atom,” “electro-magnetic wave,” and “electron,” for which there appeared to be no directly observable evidence (see theoretical terms ). The senses of “model” discussed in classical physics were of two types, which may be distinguished as “material” and “formal” ( Hesse 1966 ). A material model is, or describes, a physical entity - familiar examples are billiard balls, a fluid medium, a spring, or an attracting or repelling electric particle. A formal model is the expression of the form or structure of physical entities and processes, without any semantic content referring to specific objects or properties. For example, a “wave equation” in mathematical symbols may express the laws of a simple pendulum, of sound or light waves, of quantum wave functions, etc., while remaining ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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