How are Models and Explanations Related?

Erkenntnis 81 (5):1127-1148 (2016)
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Abstract

Within the modeling literature, there is often an implicit assumption about the relationship between a given model and a scientific explanation. The goal of this article is to provide a unified framework with which to analyze the myriad relationships between a model and an explanation. Our framework distinguishes two fundamental kinds of relationships. The first is metaphysical, where the model is identified as an explanation or as a partial explanation. The second is epistemological, where the model produces understanding that is related to the explanation of interest. Our analysis reveals that the epistemological relationships are not always dependent on the metaphysical relationships, contrary to what has been assumed by many philosophers of science. Moreover, we identify several importantly different ways that scientific models instantiate these relationships. We argue that our framework provides novel insights concerning the nature of models, explanation, idealization, and understanding.

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Author Profiles

Collin Rice
Colorado State University
Yasha Rohwer
University of Missouri, Columbia

Citations of this work

Counterfactuals and Explanatory Pluralism.Kareem Khalifa, Gabriel Doble & Jared Millson - 2018 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (4):1439-1460.
Understanding realism.Collin Rice - 2019 - Synthese 198 (5):4097-4121.
Model Explanation Versus Model-Induced Explanation.Insa Lawler & Emily Sullivan - 2021 - Foundations of Science 26 (4):1049-1074.

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