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Nature's Capacities and Their Measurement$
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Nancy Cartwright

Print publication date: 1994

Print ISBN-13: 9780198235071

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198235070.001.0001

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Abstract and Concrete

Abstract and Concrete

Chapter:
(p.183) 5 Abstract and Concrete
Source:
Nature's Capacities and Their Measurement
Author(s):

Nancy Cartwright (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0198235070.003.0006

Modern science relies heavily on Galilean idealization, which establishes ceteris paribus laws—laws about what happens when a factor operates unimpeded. But these laws are of little direct use since factors seldom do operate unimpeded. The follow‐up to Galilean idealization is abstraction—we talk simply of what the factor does. The best way to understand this abstraction is as an ascription of a capacity, not in terms of any kind of laws. Even the process of ‘de‐idealization’ or of ‘concretization’ that results in a concrete phenomenological law inevitably involves further concepts in the capacity family.

Keywords:   abstraction, ceteris paribus laws, concretization, de‐idealization, Galilean idealization

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