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Models as make-believe

Toon, Adam (2010) Models as make-believe. Beyond Mimesis and Convention. pp. 71-96.

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In this paper I propose an account of representation for scientific models based on Kendall Walton’s ‘make-believe’ theory of representation in art. I first set out the problem of scientific representation and respond to a recent argument due to Craig Callender and Jonathan Cohen, which aims to show that the problem may be easily dismissed. I then introduce my account of models as props in games of make-believe and show how it offers a solution to the problem. Finally, I demonstrate an important advantage my account has over other theories of scientific representation. All existing theories analyse scientific representation in terms of relations, such as similarity or denotation. By contrast, my account does not take representation in modelling to be essentially relational. For this reason, it can accommodate a group of models often ignored in discussions of scientific representation, namely models which are representational but which represent no actual object.

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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Toon, Adam
Additional Information: This paper develops the account of models I offered in my talk at the 'Beyond Mimesis and Nominalism' conference in June 2006. It focuses on representation. Issues concerning the ontology of models are discussed in Toon, A. (2010) "The Ontology of Theoretical Modelling: Models as Make-Believe", Synthese 172: 301-315.
Keywords: models, idealization, representation, make-believe, fiction, imagination
Subjects: General Issues > Models and Idealization
Depositing User: Dr Adam Toon
Date Deposited: 08 Dec 2011 01:09
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2011 01:09
Item ID: 8931
Journal or Publication Title: Beyond Mimesis and Convention
Publisher: Springer (Springer Science+Business Media B.V.)
Official URL:
Subjects: General Issues > Models and Idealization
Date: 2010
Page Range: pp. 71-96

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