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Workshop on Imagination and Fiction in Scientific Modelling

Department of Philosophy, University of York

Friday, 31st May, 2019

Wentworth College: W/N/202

10-11.15: Michael T. Stuart (University of Geneva): ‘The Turn of the Key: Imagination and Scientific Models

11.15-11.30 Coffee Break

11.30-12.45: Tarja Knuuttila (University of Vienna): ‘Synthetic Models: Concrete and Fictional?

12.45-2pm: Lunch

2-3.15: Mary Leng and Fiora Salis (University of York): ‘Dynamic Imagining in Economic Modelling: Some Case Studies’

3.15-3.30: Coffee Break

3.30-4.45: Manuel García-Carpintero (Logos, University of Barcelona): ‘Models as hypostatizations: the case of supervaluationism in semantics

4.45-5.15: Reflections and Future Developments (panel)

5.15: Close.

The workshop is free for academics and students to attend. If you plan to attend, please contact us so that we can keep track of numbers.

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Tarja Knuuttila

Synthetic Models: Concrete and Fictional?

This paper discusses the commonalities of the artifactual and fictional approaches to modeling. While both approaches are able to accommodate surrogative reasoning – a crucial feature of scientific modeling – they differ from each other in that the artifactual approach focuses on the culturally established external representational tools that enable, embody and extend scientific imagination and reasoning. While from the fictional perspective such representational tools provide means for model description, the artifactual account considers them as ineliminable parts of scientific models themselves. Can the two perspectives be reconciled? The answer I suggest is yes, but in this case one would need to let go the assumptions that fictions are non-existent, false, or reside in the imaginings of scientists only. Interestingly, this option would accommodate many scientific models and objects as kind of concrete fictions. I will study synthetic models such as synthetic genetic circuits and minimal cells from the fictional perspective.

Michael T. Stuart

The Turn of the Key: Imagination and Scientific Models
Some philosophers of science claim that scientific models are, in some sense, fictitious entities. Thus, scientists learn from models in the same way that we learn about Victorian London from Sherlock Holmes novels. This is exciting. It suggests that we can incorporate facts about how humans engage with fiction using imagination into a richer theory of scientific model-based reasoning. Yet (with some exceptions), this has not really been attempted. In this talk, I focus on the role of imagination in the DEKI account, which explicates model-based reasoning in terms of the Denotation, Exemplification, Keying-up, and Interpretation of scientific models. I argue that “keying-up” should be understood as a quasi-experimental imaginative act. I will draw on new ideas from the epistemology of action to argue that we must understand keying-up this way if it is not to become a species of denotation, which would make the DEKI account susceptible to a reductio.

Manuel García-Carpintero

Models as hypostatizations: the case of supervaluationism in semantics

In previous work (‘Fictional Entities, Theoretical Models and Figurative Truth’, in Frigg, R, and Hunter, M. (eds.), Beyond Mimesis and Convention – Representation in Art and Science, Springer, 2010, 139-68), I have defended (mainly for explicit talk and thought about fictional entities, but also about scientific models) what I consider a form of anti-realism for such discourse, a version of Yablo’s “figuralist” brand of fictionalism. In contrast with pretense-theoretic fictionalist proposals, on this view utterances in those discourses are straightforward assertions with straightforward truth-conditions, involving a particular kind of metaphors or figurative manner. In my contribution I’ll explore further what I take to be the virtues of the proposal, by illustrating its application to a particular case, explanations of vagueness-related phenomena in semantics by means of supervaluationist models.