Authors
Stephan Hartmann
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München
Alexander Reutlinger
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München
Abstract
Toy models are highly idealized and extremely simple models. Although they are omnipresent across scientific disciplines, toy models are a surprisingly under-appreciated subject in the philosophy of science. The main philosophical puzzle regarding toy models is that it is an unsettled question what the epistemic goal of toy modeling is. One promising proposal for answering this question is the claim that the epistemic goal of toy models is to provide individual scientists with understanding. The aim of this paper is to precisely articulate and to defend this claim. In particular, we will distinguish between autonomous and embedded toy models, and, then, argue that important examples of autonomous toy models are sometimes best interpreted to provide how-possibly understanding, while embedded toy models yield how-actually understanding, if certain conditions are satisfied.
Keywords models  toy models  explanation  understanding  idealization  minimal models
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DOI 10.1093/bjps/axx005
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References found in this work BETA

How the Laws of Physics Lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

Robustness and Idealizations in Agent-Based Models of Scientific Interaction.Daniel Frey & Dunja Šešelja - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (4):1411-1437.
Understanding From Machine Learning Models.Emily Sullivan - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axz035.
Idealizations and Understanding: Much Ado About Nothing?Emily Sullivan & Kareem Khalifa - 2019 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 97 (4):673-689.
It’s Not a Game: Accurate Representation with Toy Models.James Nguyen - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (3):1013-1041.

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