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The Ontology of Theoretical Modelling: Models as Make-Believe

Toon, Adam (2010) The Ontology of Theoretical Modelling: Models as Make-Believe. Synthese, 172 (2). pp. 301-315. ISSN 1573-0964

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The descriptions and theoretical laws scientists write down when they model a system are often false of any real system. And yet we commonly talk as if there were objects that satisfy the scientists’ assumptions and as if we may learn about their properties. Many attempt to make sense of this by taking the scientists’ descriptions and theoretical laws to define abstract or fictional entities. In this paper, I propose an alternative account of theoretical modelling that draws upon Kendall Walton’s ‘make-believe’ theory of representation in art. I argue that this account allows us to understand theoretical modelling without positing any object of which scientists’ modelling assumptions are true.

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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Toon, Adam
Keywords: Models, representation, fiction, imagination
Subjects: General Issues > Models and Idealization
Depositing User: Dr Adam Toon
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 14:11
Last Modified: 10 Nov 2011 14:11
Item ID: 8887
Journal or Publication Title: Synthese
Publisher: Springer (Springer Science+Business Media B.V.)
Official URL:
Subjects: General Issues > Models and Idealization
Date: 2010
Page Range: pp. 301-315
Volume: 172
Number: 2
ISSN: 1573-0964

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