Laws and models in a theory of idealization

Synthese 138 (3):363 - 385 (2004)


I first give a brief summary of a critique of the traditional theories of approximation and idealization; and after identifying one of the major roles of idealization as detaching component processes or systems from their joints, a detailed analysis is given of idealized laws – which are discoverable and/or applicable – in such processes and systems (i.e., idealized model systems). Then, I argue that dispositional properties should be regarded as admissible properties for laws and that such an inclusion supplies the much needed connection between idealized models and the laws they `produce'' or `accommodate''. And I then argue that idealized law-statements so produced or accommodated in the models may be either true simpliciter or true approximately, but the latter is not because of the idealizations involved. I argue that the kind of limiting-case idealizations that produce approximate truth is best regarded as approximation; and finally I compare my theory with some existing theories of laws of nature.We seem to trace [in KingLear] ... the tendency of imagination toanalyse and abstract, to decomposehuman nature into its constituentfactors, and then to construct beings in whomone or more of these factors isabsent or atrophied or only incipient.

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Author's Profile

Chuang Liu
University of Florida

References found in this work

How the Laws of Physics Lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
New Work for a Theory of Universals.David K. Lewis - 1983 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 61 (4):343-377.
Nature's Capacities and Their Measurement.Nancy Cartwright - 1989 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
What is a Law of Nature?D. Armstrong - 1983 - Cambridge University Press.

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