Thomson-Jones, Martin (1997) Models and the Semantic View. [Preprint]
I begin by laying out a taxonomy of models (section 1). The aim is, in part, to have all the objects picked out (or purportedly picked out) by every widespread and coherent use of the term ‘model’ in the philosophy of science, and in the sciences themselves, fall into one of the categories included in the taxonomy. The notions of model employed in presenting the taxonomy, furthermore, are recognisable as notions which play, or have played, a central role in the philosophical literature on modelling in the sciences. Guided by the lights of this taxonomy, I argue for a particular view about the best way of understanding the semantic view of theory structure (section 2). One of the notions of model employed in laying out the taxonomy is that of a truth-making structure; another is that of a mathematical model (in one specific sense). Although the models of the semantic view have often been taken to be both truth-making structures and mathematical models, I argue that this is in part due to a failure to distinguish between two ways of truth-making; in fact, the talk of truth-making is best excised from the view altogether. The result is a version of the semantic view which is better supported by the direct evidence offered for it, better positioned to achieve its avowed aims, and, I think, closer to the intentions of the original proponents of the view in many ways, despite some of their own declarations to the contrary. And this leaves us in a better position to assess the semantic view. I then go on to argue that the semantic view is ill-equipped to account for a central scientific use of the term ‘model’, and that a notion of model quite alien to the semantic view is better suited to the task (section 3). This is the notion of a model as a set of propositions (not sentences) the members of which together form a representation of a system, or a type of system, under study. I go on to explore the idea of taking a theory to be a collection of such propositional models, and to look at the advantages for the philosophy of science of employing the notion of a propositional model in our theorising.
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