PSA2016: The 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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How do idealizing models provide understanding-why?

Intuitively, understanding why p requires believing a correct explanation for why p. Yet we seem to gain understanding-why via explanations based on idealizing models, though idealizations are strictly speaking false. In order to deal with this puzzle or `paradox' (Reiss 2012), one could deny that understanding-why is gained using idealizing models, or one could relax the truth requirement on understanding-why (Elgin 2004, de Regt 2015). Instead, I resolve the puzzle. I argue that idealizations are not explanatorily decisive for model-based explanations and that successful model-based explanations which provide understanding-why are veridical. I further show that idealizations are nonetheless epistemically valuable.

Author Information:

Insa Lawler    
University of Duisburg-Essen


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