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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-Q072-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 23, 2024, from

Article Summary

Of the many kinds of things that serve as ‘models’, all function fundamentally as representations of what we wish to understand or to be or to do. Model aeroplanes and other scale models share selected structural properties with their originals, while differing in other properties, such as construction materials and size. Analogue models, which resemble their originals in some aspect of structure or internal relations, are important in the sciences, because they can facilitate inferences about complicated or obscure natural systems. A collection of billiard balls in random motion is an analogue model of an ideal gas; the interactions and motions of the billiard balls are taken to represent – to be analogous to – the interactions and motions of molecules in the gas.

In mathematical logic, a model is a structure – an arrangement of objects – which represents a theory expressed as a set of sentences. The various terms of the sentences of the theory are mapped onto objects and their relations in the structure; a model is a structure that makes all of the sentences in the theory true. This specialized notion of model has been adopted by philosophers of science; on a ‘structuralist’ or ‘semantic’ conception, scientific theories are understood as structures which are used to represent real systems in nature. Philosophical debates have arisen regarding the precise extent of the resemblances between scientific models and the natural systems they represent.

Citing this article:
Lloyd, Elisabeth A.. Models, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-Q072-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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