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Reconstructing RealityModels, Mathematics, and Simulations$
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Margaret Morrison

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199380275

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199380275.001.0001

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More Than Make-Believe

More Than Make-Believe

Fictions, Models, and Reality

(p.85) 3 More Than Make-Believe
Reconstructing Reality

Margaret Morrison

Oxford University Press

Many accounts of scientific modelling define any unrealistic representation as ‘fictional modeling.’ This chapter argues against this view by claiming that fictional models involve a specific type of representation whose physical similarity to the target system is not always obvious. These models often contain structural features they have in common with the target, and show how those features might be conceptualised within the system being modelled. Contrary to the existing account of fictional models, the chapter also claims that no general methodology exists for determining how these models deliver information; it will depend entirely on the specific details of the models themselves. Questions related to the differences between fictional models and the more common use of idealisation and abstraction are also addressed. The role of fictional models is illustrated with a discussion of the development of electrodynamics by James Clerk Maxwell, which had its origins in a fictional model of the ether.

Keywords:   electrodynamics, fictions, representation, idealisation, abstraction, James Clerk Maxwell

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