Infinite idealization and contextual realism

Synthese 196 (5):1885-1918 (2019)


The paper discusses the recent literature on abstraction/idealization in connection with the “paradox of infinite idealization.” We use the case of taking thermodynamics limit in dealing with the phenomena of phase transition and critical phenomena to broach the subject. We then argue that the method of infinite idealization is widely used in the practice of science, and not all uses of the method are the same. We then confront the compatibility problem of infinite idealization with scientific realism. We propose and defend a contextualist position for realism and argue that the cases for infinite idealization appear to be fully compatible with contextual realism.

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