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Models as make-believe

Toon, Adam (2010) Models as make-believe. [Published Article]

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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
    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
    Conferences and Volumes: [2006] Beyond Mimesis and Nominalism: Representation in Art and Science (London, 22-23 June 2006)
    Depositing User: Dr Adam Toon
    Date Deposited: 07 Dec 2011 20:09
    Last Modified: 07 Dec 2011 20:09
    Item ID: 8931
    Journal or Publication Title: Beyond Mimesis and Convention
    Publisher: Springer (Springer Science+Business Media B.V.)
    Official URL:

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