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Shech, Elay (2015) ASSUME A SPHERICAL COW: STUDIES ON REPRESENTATION AND IDEALIZATION. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation concerns the philosophical underpinnings of representation and idealization in science. I begin by looking at the philosophical debate revolving around phase transitions and use it as a foil to bring out what I take to be most interesting about phase transitions, namely, the manner by which they illustrate the problem of essential idealizations. I continue to solve the problem in several steps. First, I conduct an interdisciplinary comparative study of different types of representations (e.g., mental, linguistic, pictorial) and consequently promote a content-based account of scientific representation intended to accommodate the practice of idealization and misrepresentation. I then critically asses the literature on idealizations in science in order to identify the manner by which to justify appeals to idealizations in science, and implement such techniques in two case studies that merit special attention: the Aharonov-Bohm effect and the quantum Hall effects. I proceed to offer a characterization of essential idealizations meant to alleviate the woes associated with said problem, and argue that particular types of idealizations, dubbed pathological idealizations, ought to be dispensed with. My motto is that idealizations are essential to explanation and representation, as well as to methodology and pedagogy, but they essentially misrepresent. Implications for the debate on platonism about mathematical objects are outlined.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairNorton, John D.jdnorton@pitt.eduJDNORTON
Committee CoChairEarman, Johnjearman@pitt.eduJEARMAN
Committee MemberBatterman, Robert W.
Committee MemberValente, Giovanni
Committee MemberRuetsche, Laura
Date: 23 June 2015
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 30 March 2015
Approval Date: 23 June 2015
Submission Date: 16 April 2015
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 286
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History and Philosophy of Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Philosophy of Physics, Philosophy of Mathematics, Representation and Idealization, Phase Transitions, Aharonov-Bohm Effect, Quantum Hall Effects
Date Deposited: 23 Jun 2015 12:39
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:27


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