Idealizations are ubiquitous in science. They are distortions or falsities that enter into theories, laws, models, and scientific representations. Various questions suggest themselves: What are idealizations? Why do we appeal to idealizations and how do we justify them? Are idealizations essential to physics and, if so, in what sense and for which purpose? How can idealizations provide genuine understanding? If our motivation for believing in the existence of unobservable entities like electrons and quarks is that they are indispensable to our best theories, should we also believe in the existence of indispensable idealizations?
My new book, Idealizations in Physics (Cambridge University Press), sheds light on such questions and connects with issues such as epistemic justification, mathematical Platonism, scientific realism, and scientific understanding.
Scientific Understanding and Representation: Modeling in the Physical Sciences is published by Routledge today!
This book assembles cutting-edge scholarship on scientific understanding, scientific representation, and their delicate interplay. Featuring several articles in an engaging ‘critical conversation’ format, the volume integrates discussions about understanding and representation with perennial issues in the philosophy of science, including the nature of scientific knowledge, idealizations, scientific realism, scientific inference, and scientific progress.