Abstract and Concrete

Nancy Cartwright

in Nature's Capacities and Their Measurement

Published in print April 1994 | ISBN: 9780198235071
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597169 | DOI:

Series: Clarendon Paperbacks

Abstract and Concrete

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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

Chapter.  19851 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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