Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2016)
Science provides us with representations of atoms, elementary particles, polymers, populations, genetic trees, economies, rational decisions, aeroplanes, earthquakes, forest fires, irrigation systems, and the world’s climate. It's through these representations that we learn about the world. This entry explores various different accounts of scientific representation, with a particular focus on how scientific models represent their target systems. As philosophers of science are increasingly acknowledging the importance, if not the primacy, of scientific models as representational units of science, it's important to stress that how they represent plays a fundamental role in how we are to answer other questions in the philosophy of science. This entry begins by disentangling ‘the’ problem of scientific representation, before critically evaluating the current options available in the literature.