Overextending partial structures: Idealization and abstraction

Philosophy of Science 72 (5):1248-1259 (2005)
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Abstract

The partial structures program of da Costa, French and others offers a unified framework within which to handle a wide range of issues central to contemporary philosophy of science. I argue that the program is inadequately equipped to account for simple cases where idealizations are used to construct abstract, mathematical models of physical systems. These problems show that da Costa and French have not overcome the objections raised by Cartwright and Suárez to using model‐theoretic techniques in the philosophy of science. However, my concerns arise independently of the more controversial assumptions that Cartwright and Suárez have employed.

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