Universität Wien FIND

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180175 SE Scientific representation (2019S)

5.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 18 - Philosophie
Continuous assessment of course work



max. 30 participants
Language: English


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

Wednesday 13.03. 09:45 - 11:15 Hörsaal. 2H NIG 2.Stock
Wednesday 20.03. 09:45 - 11:15 Hörsaal. 2H NIG 2.Stock
Wednesday 27.03. 09:45 - 11:15 Hörsaal. 2H NIG 2.Stock
Wednesday 03.04. 09:45 - 11:15 Hörsaal. 2H NIG 2.Stock
Wednesday 10.04. 09:45 - 11:15 Hörsaal. 2H NIG 2.Stock
Wednesday 08.05. 09:45 - 11:15 Hörsaal. 2H NIG 2.Stock
Wednesday 15.05. 09:45 - 11:15 Hörsaal. 2H NIG 2.Stock
Wednesday 22.05. 09:45 - 11:15 Hörsaal. 2H NIG 2.Stock
Wednesday 29.05. 09:45 - 11:15 Hörsaal. 2H NIG 2.Stock
Wednesday 05.06. 09:45 - 11:15 Hörsaal. 2H NIG 2.Stock
Wednesday 12.06. 09:45 - 11:15 Hörsaal. 2H NIG 2.Stock
Wednesday 19.06. 09:45 - 11:15 Hörsaal. 2H NIG 2.Stock
Wednesday 26.06. 09:45 - 13:00 Hörsaal 3C, NIG Universitätsstraße 7/Stg. II/3. Stock, 1010 Wien


Aims, contents and method of the course

The course provides an advanced introduction to the current philosophical discussion of scientific representation and modeling. The topics discussed include:
- Scientific modeling
- Structuralist and pragmatist accounts of representation
- Fictional and artefactual approaches
- Idealization and abstraction
- Toy models and analogical models
- Simulation and computational models
- Representational practices
- Models, values and policy

Having taken this course, the student is able to understand, and participate in the philosophical discussion of scientific representation and modeling at the level of less technical papers appearing in academic philosophical journals. The student is also able to apply the more general philosophical discussion of representation to particular instances of scientific research. The course also seeks to nurture a reflective attitude to the role of representation in science and technology.

- close reading and critical discussion of the literature (concepts, themes, arguments)
- question(s) concerning the reading(s) submitted through Moodle
- chairing or co-chairing the group discussion
- short lectures by the instructor
- a thesis-oriented essay on a specific theme discussed in the course

Assessment and permitted materials

Active participation (30%), assignments (20%), (co-)chairing a class (10%), and a thesis-oriented essay (40%).

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

1. Active participation to the seminars: You need to attend to at least 11 classes.
2. Readings and assignments: You have to prepare for the classes well enough to be able to present the basic argument(s) of the readings. Additionally, you have to send a question on the readings to the Moodle dashboard 24 hours before the class.
3. Each student needs to chair, or co-chair, one class. The chair(s) should give a comprehensive overview of the submitted questions, and lead the discussion.
4. A thesis-oriented essay in English on a given topic (2000 words, excluding references). The more specific instructions will be given later.

Examination topics

Reading list


The readings consist of book chapters and scientific articles. The readings will be uploaded to the Moodle ahead of the class.

Bailer-Jones, D. 2009. “Analogy.” (Ch. 3). In Scientific Models in Philosophy of Science (pp. 46-80). Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
Boltzmann, L. 1902/1911. “Models.” Encyclopaedia Britannica (11th ed.). (638-640). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
French, S., and J. Ladyman J. 1999. “Reinflating the Semantic Approach.” International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 13: 103-121.
Gelfert, A. 2016. How to Do Science with Models – A Philosophical Primer Springer (pp. 1-41)
Giere, R. N. 2010. “An Agent-based Conception of Models and Scientific Representation. Synthese 172: 269-281.
Godfrey-Smith, P. 2006. “The Strategy of Model-Based Science.” Biology and Philosophy 21: 725-740.
Humphreys. P. 2004. Extending Ourselves: Computational Science, Empiricism, and Scientific Method (pp. 49-72, 88-100)
Jones, M. R. 2005. “Idealization and Abstraction: A Framework.” In M. R. Jones & N. Cartwright (Eds.), Idealization XII: Correcting the model. Poznan studies in the philosophy of sciences and the humanities (Vol. 86, pp. 173–217). Amsterdam: Rodopi.
Knuuttila, T. 2018. “Imagination Extended and Embedded: Artifactual and Fictional Accounts of Models.” Synthese. doi: 10.1007/s11229-017-1545-2
Latour, B. 1995. “The ‘Pédofil’ of Boa Vista: A Photo-Philosophical Montage.” Common Knowledge V4, N1: 144-187.
Luczak, J. 2017. “Talk about Toy Models.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics. Vol. 57: 1-7.
Lynch, M. 1990. “The Externalized Retina: Selection and Mathematization in the Visual Documentation of Objects in Life Sciences”, in Michael Lynch and Steve Woolgar (eds.), Representation in Scientific Practice. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 153-186.
MaKenzie, D. 2006. “Performing Markets.” (Ch.1). In An Engine, Not a Camera: How Financial Models Shape the Markets. Cambridge, MA and London: The MIT Press.
Morrison, M., & Morgan, M. S. 1999. “Models as Mediating Instruments.” In M. S. Morgan & M. Morrison (Eds.), Models as Mediators. Perspectives on Natural and Social Science (pp. 10-37). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sterrett, S. 2014. “The Morals of Model-Making.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 46:31-45.
Suárez, M. 2003. “Scientific Representation: Against Similarity and Isomorphism.” International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 17: 225-244.
Thomasson, A. (in press). “If Models were Fictions, then What Would They Be?” In P. Godfrey-Smith and A. Levy (Eds.), The Scientific Imagination. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Weisberg, M. 2007. “Three Kinds of Idealization.” The Journal of Philosophy, CIV, 12: 639-59.
Winsberg, E. 2003. “Simulated Experiments: Methodology for a Virtual World.” Philosophy of Science 70: 105.125.
Yaneva, A. 2005. “Scaling up and down: Extraction Trials in Architectural Design.” Social Studies in Science 35: 867-894.

Association in the course directory

Last modified: Mo 07.09.2020 15:36