The means-end account of scientific, representational actions

Synthese 196 (6):2305-2322 (2019)
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Abstract

While many recent accounts of scientific representation have given a central role to the agency and intentions of scientists in explaining representation, they have left these agential concepts unanalyzed. An account of scientific, representational actions will be a useful piece in offering a more complete account of the practice of representation in science. Drawing on an Anscombean approach to the nature of intentional actions, the Means-End Account of Scientific, Representational Actions describes three features of scientific, representational actions: (I) the final description in the means-end ordering of descriptions is some scientific aim; (II) that interaction with a vehicle distinct from its target stands as an earlier description which is ordered toward the final description as means to end; and (III) the means-end structure is licensed by scientific practice. After describing each of the components of the Means-End Account in greater detail through the example of the representational use of a mathematical model, I explain how it can demarcate scientific, representational actions from other sorts of actions. I close by describing some payoffs of the account, showing how it contributes to a more thorough understanding of the practice of representation in science and how it can be of use in understanding the close connection between representation and other forms of scientific activity.

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Brandon Boesch
Morningside College

Citations of this work

Scientific representation.Roman Frigg & James Nguyen - 2016 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Resolving and Understanding Differences Between Agent-Based Accounts of Scientific Representation.Brandon Boesch - 2019 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 50 (2):195-213.
A concrete example of representational licensing: The Mississippi River Basin Model.Brandon Boesch - 2022 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 92 (C):36-44.

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References found in this work

Intention.G. E. M. Anscombe - 1957 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
How models are used to represent reality.Ronald N. Giere - 2004 - Philosophy of Science 71 (5):742-752.
Who is a Modeler?Michael Weisberg - 2007 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 58 (2):207-233.

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