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The New Mechanical Philosophy$
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Stuart Glennan

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198779711

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198779711.001.0001

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Models, Mechanisms, and How Explanations

Models, Mechanisms, and How Explanations

(p.59) 3 Models, Mechanisms, and How Explanations
The New Mechanical Philosophy

Stuart Glennan

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that models are the central means by which scientists represent phenomena and the mechanisms responsible for them. Extending work by Giere and Weisberg, it offers a general account of models, which emphasizes that models are constructed for particular purposes and are related to their targets by similarity relations. Different goals will lead to different models, so that a given target has many models. It then identifies the features that distinguish mechanistic models from other models, and shows how these models are used in explanation. Abstraction and idealization are essential to the modeling process, and the chapter shows how these features allow scientists to provide general representations of heterogeneous mechanisms.

Keywords:   models, similarity, mechanism, explanation, abstraction, idealization

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