Reconstructing Reality: Models, Mathematics, and Simulations

ISBN : 9780199380275

Margaret Morrison
344 Pages
148 x 216 mm
Pub date
Jan 2015
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Attempts to understand various aspects of the empirical world often rely on modelling processes that involve a reconstruction of systems under investigation. Typically the reconstruction uses mathematical frameworks like gauge theory and renormalization group methods, but more recently simulations also have become an indispensable tool for investigation. This book is a philosophical examination of techniques and assumptions related to modelling and simulation with the goal of showing how these abstract descriptions can contribute to our understanding of the physical world. Particular issues include the role of fictional models in science, how mathematical formalisms can yield physical information, and how we should approach the use of inconsistent models for specific types of systems. It also addresses the role of simulation, specifically the conditions under which simulation can be seen as a technique for measurement, replacing more traditional experimental approaches. Inherent worries about the legitimacy of simulation " are also addressed, including an analysis of verification and validation and the role of simulation data in the search for the Higgs boson. In light of the significant role played by simulation in the Large Hadron Collider experiments, it is argued that the traditional distinction between simulation and experiment is no longer applicable in some contexts of modern science. Consequently, a re-evaluation of the way and extent to which simulation delivers empirical knowledge is required. "-Bas van Fraassen, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, San Francisco State University


Part One: Mathematics, Explanation and Understanding
Chapter One: Abstraction and Idealisation: Understanding via Models
Chapter Two: From the Pure to the Concrete: How Mathematics Yields Physical Information
Part Two: Where Models Meet the World: Problems and Perspectives
Chapter Three: More than Make-Believe: Fictions, Models and Reality
Chapter Four: Mediated Knowledge: Representation and The Theory-Model Axis
Chapter Five: Making the Best of It: Inconsistent vs. Complementary Models
Part Three: Computer Simulation: The New Reality
Chapter Six: Why Materiality is Not Enough: Models, Measurement and Computer Simulation
Chapter Seven: Legitimating Simulation: Methodological Issues of Verification and Validation.
Chapter Eight: Without it there's Nothing: The Necessity of Simulation in the Higgs Search

About the author: 

Margaret Morrison is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto. Her publications span many fields including general philosophy of science, history and philosophy of physics, and the history of early modern philosophy (especially Kant). She has also published articles on methodological issues related to the development of population genetics.

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