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The Function of Boundary Conditions in the Physical Sciences

Bursten, Julia (2020) The Function of Boundary Conditions in the Physical Sciences. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Early philosophical accounts of explanation mistook the function of boundary conditions for that of contingent facts. I diagnose where this misunderstanding arose and establish that it persists. I disambiguate between uses of the term "boundary conditions" and argue that boundary conditions are explanatory via their roles as components of models. Using case studies from fluid mechanics and the physics of waves, I articulate four explanatory functions for boundary conditions in physics: specifying the scope of a model, enabling stable descriptions of phenomena in the model, generating descriptions of novel phenomena, and connecting models from differing theoretical backgrounds.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Bursten, Juliajrbursten@uky.edu0000-0002-5664-3342
Additional Information: To appear in Philosophy of Science
Keywords: boundary conditions, explanation, modeling, acoustics, physics
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Classical Physics
Specific Sciences > Physics > Condensed Matter
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Models and Idealization
Specific Sciences > Physics
Depositing User: Julia Bursten
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2020 02:02
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2020 02:02
Item ID: 17286
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Classical Physics
Specific Sciences > Physics > Condensed Matter
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Models and Idealization
Specific Sciences > Physics
Date: 2020
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/17286

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