Journal Article

Who is a Modeler?

Michael Weisberg

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 58, issue 2, pages 207-233
Published in print June 2007 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online May 2007 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
Who is a Modeler?

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Many standard philosophical accounts of scientific practice fail to distinguish between modeling and other types of theory construction. This failure is unfortunate because there are important contrasts among the goals, procedures, and representations employed by modelers and other kinds of theorists. We can see some of these differences intuitively when we reflect on the methods of theorists such as Vito Volterra and Linus Pauling on the one hand, and Charles Darwin and Dimitri Mendeleev on the other. Much of Volterra's and Pauling's work involved modeling; much of Darwin's and Mendeleev's did not. In order to capture this distinction, I consider two examples of theory construction in detail: Volterra's treatment of post-WWI fishery dynamics and Mendeleev's construction of the periodic system. I argue that modeling can be distinguished from other forms of theorizing by the procedures modelers use to represent and to study real-world phenomena: indirect representation and analysis. This differentiation between modelers and non-modelers is one component of the larger project of understanding the practice of modeling, its distinctive features, and the strategies of abstraction and idealization it employs. 1



The essential contrast 2.1



Abstract direct representation


Scientific models


Distinguishing modeling from ADR 4.1

The first and second stages of modeling


Third stage of modeling




Who is not a modeler?


Conclusion: who is a modeler?

Journal Article.  11013 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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