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Fiction and Scientific Representation

Frigg, Roman (2010) Fiction and Scientific Representation. Beyond Mimesis and Nominalism: Representation in Art and Science (Roman Frigg and Matthew Hunter (eds.)). pp. 97-138.

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Understanding scientific modelling can be divided into two sub-projects: analysing what model-systems are, and understanding how they are used to represent something beyond themselves. The first is a prerequisite for the second: we can only start analysing how representation works once we understand the intrinsic character of the vehicle that does the representing. Coming to terms with this issue is the project of the first half of this chapter. My central contention is that models are akin to places and characters of literary fictions, and that therefore theories of fiction play an essential role in explaining the nature of model-systems. This sets the agenda. Section 2 provides a statement of this view, which I label the fiction view of model-systems, and argues for its prima facie plausibility. Section 3 presents a defence of this view against its main rival, the structuralist conception of models. In Section 4 I develop an account of model-systems as imagined objects on the basis of the so-called pretence theory of fiction. This theory needs to be discussed in great detail for two reasons. First, developing an acceptable account of imagined objects is mandatory to make the fiction view acceptable, and I will show that the pretence theory has the resources to achieve this goal. Second, the term ‘representation’ is ambiguous; in fact, there are two very different relations that are commonly called ‘representation’ and a conflation between the two is the root of some of the problems that (allegedly) beset scientific representation. Pretence theory provides us with the conceptual resources to articulate these two different forms of representation, which I call p-representation and t-representation respectively. Putting these elements together provides us with a coherent overall picture of scientific modelling, which I develop in Section 5.

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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Keywords: Scientific representation, fiction, models
Subjects: General Issues > Models and Idealization
Depositing User: Roman Frigg
Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2014 17:41
Last Modified: 19 Dec 2014 17:41
Item ID: 11212
Journal or Publication Title: Beyond Mimesis and Nominalism: Representation in Art and Science (Roman Frigg and Matthew Hunter (eds.))
Publisher: Springer
Subjects: General Issues > Models and Idealization
Date: 2010
Page Range: pp. 97-138

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