Chapter

Idealization

Lawrence Sklar

in Theory and Truth

Published in print February 2002 | ISBN: 9780199251575
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598449 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199251576.003.0004
 Idealization

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The construction of our scientific theories, the justification for accepting them, and their application in description and explanation of the world, all often rest upon our idealization of the world the theory is to deal with. We idealize systems as perfectly causally isolated from their environment when they are not. We idealize theories as describing the world completely when they do not. And we deal with systems ‘in the limit’ of such things as infinite time, infinitely low density, and so on. Is the employment of such idealizations grounds for taking our theories as not truly descriptive of the world but only of ‘models’ of it? Or are there, rather, subtler and more important things to say about how idealization in science impacts the way in which our theories characterize the real world?

Keywords: idealization; isolation; limits; models; scientific description; scientific explanation; scientific theory; theories

Chapter.  14455 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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