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Cory Lewis, “Laws, Models, and Explanations”
January 24, 2018 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Please join us for our January colloquialism, in which Dr. Cory Lewis will be discussing the relationship between laws, models, and explanations.
Abstract: What is the relationship between scientific laws, models and
explanations? I propose a novel account of their relationship which I
claim captures most of the common usage of those terms, as well as
clarifying the relationship between theories and explanations. In
slogan form, I propose: models rule things in, laws rule things out.
Laws and models both have alethic modal content, on this view – they
make claims about the structure of possibilities in a domain. The job
of a model is to represent some things that are possible, without
necessarily describing the limits of possibilities in its domain. The
job of a law is to say what is impossible in a domain, to draw the
boundaries of possibilities. A given representation can sometimes play
both roles, so something can be both a law and a model. Explanations
involve both explaining why unrealized alternatives did not occur, and
illuminating similar possible configurations that could occur. So laws
and models play complementary roles in underwriting scientific
explanations, which sometimes overlap but are nonetheless usefully