PhilSci Archive

The Morals of Model-Making

Sterrett, S. G. (2013) The Morals of Model-Making. [Preprint]

WarningThere is a more recent version of this item available.
REVISEDSterrettVaNiM2012TheMoralsOfModelMaking27Septemberl2013.pdf - Accepted Version

Download (428kB)


I address questions about values in model-making in engineering, specifically: Might the role of values be attributable solely to interests involved in specifying and using the model? Selected examples illustrate the surprisingly wide variety of things one must take into account in the model-making itself. The notions of system (as used in engineering thermodynamics), and physically similar systems (as used in the physical sciences) are important and powerful in determining what is relevant to an engineering model. Another example (windfarms) illustrates how an idea to completely re-characterize, or reframe, an engineering problem arose during model-making.
I employ a qualitative analogue of the notion of physically similar systems. Historical cases can thus be drawn upon; I illustrate with a comparison between a geoengineering proposal to inject, or spray, sulfate aerosols, and two different historical cases involving the spraying of DDT (fire ant eradication; malaria eradication). The current geoengineering proposal is seen to be like the disastrous and counterproductive case, and unlike the successful case, of the spraying of DDT. I conclude by explaining my view that model-making in science is analogous to moral perception in action, drawing on a view in moral theory that has come to be called moral particularism.

Export/Citation: EndNote | BibTeX | Dublin Core | ASCII/Text Citation (Chicago) | HTML Citation | OpenURL
Social Networking:
Share |

Item Type: Preprint
Sterrett, S.
Additional Information: Paper forthcoming in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, based on invited keynote at VaNiM2012 (Values and Norms in Modeling 2012). Part of a special journal issue on VaNiM2012.
Keywords: model, moral particularism, system, similarity, geoengineering, DDT
Subjects: General Issues > Models and Idealization
Depositing User: Dr Susan G. Sterrett
Date Deposited: 28 Sep 2013 04:13
Last Modified: 10 Feb 2014 13:43
Item ID: 10023
Subjects: General Issues > Models and Idealization
Date: 27 September 2013

Available Versions of this Item

Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Monthly Downloads for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item