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Wubs, M.

Auteur: Martijn Wubs
Afstudeerjaar: 1997
Vakgroep: Wetenschapsfilosofie, Logica en Kentheorie

Laws or Models? A comparative study of two models of scientific explanation.

A popular view of scientific explanation was captured by C.G. Hempel in his Deductive-Nomological model: to explain a phenomenon, try and find the law of nature that is at work in the physical system that you observe. Explanation is the construction of a deduction with the law as one of its premises and the phenomenon as the conclusion.
Likewise, the DN model can be used 'higher up' to explain laws by deducing them from physical theories. Nancy Cartwright is a fervent critic of the DN model. In the first place, she argues, the so-called 'laws of nature' often are false. Secondly, derivations in explanations often are not deductions. She proposes another model of scientific explanation: in her 'simulacrum account', she gives a central place to modelling of physical systems.
In this thesis, I discuss both models of explanation and some criticism that they have received. For instance, neither of the models can cope well with the approximate character of explanations: they do not make sense of the fact that some laws are 'more false' and some models 'distort more' than others. Apart from models of explanation, I discuss the metaphysical theories of explanation behind them: the DN model is often used to defend realism, whereas Cartwright uses her simulacrum account to attack realism.
Cartwright convinces me that models play a central role in explanations. However, by considering several models in physics, I argue that she overlooks some aspects of modelling that make her simulacrum account inadequate and that make her arguments against theory realism less convincing.


Laatst gewijzigd:01 november 2013 18:23