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Spatiotemporal Scales in Modeling: Identifying Target Systems

Baldissera Pacchetti, Marina (2018) Spatiotemporal Scales in Modeling: Identifying Target Systems. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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My dissertation addresses neglected roles of idealization and abstraction in scientific modeling. Current debates about epistemic issues in modeling presuppose that a model in question uncontroversially represents a particular target system. A standard line of argument is that we can gain knowledge of a target system simply by noting what aspects of the target are veridically represented in the model. But this misses epistemically important aspects of modeling. I examine how scientists identify certain phenomena as target systems in their models. Building on the distinction between data and phenomena introduced by Bogen and Woodward, I analyze how scientists target systems from data and from basic theoretical principles. I show that there are two crucial empirical assumptions that are involved in identifying phenomena. These assumptions concern the conditions under which phenomena can be indexed to a particular length or time scale and the conditions under which one can treat phenomena occurring at different length or time scales as distinct. The role of these assumptions in modeling provides the basis for a new argument that shows how, in many cases, idealizations and abstractions in models are essential for providing knowledge about the world in so far as they isolate relevant components of a phenomenon from irrelevant ones. My analysis of the identification of phenomena also shows that structural uncertainty arises in models when the scale of a phenomenon of interest is not properly identified. This clarification promises to improve the communication of the limitation of current climate models to policy makers.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Baldissera Pacchetti, Marinamarinabaldisserapacchetti@gmail.commab3600000-0002-5867-6893
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairBatterman, Robertrbatterm@pitt.edurbatterm
Committee MemberMitchell, Sandra D.smitchel@pitt.edusmitchel
Committee MemberWilson, Markmawilson@pitt.edumawilson
Committee MemberWerndl,
Committee MemberWoodward, James F.jfw@pitt.edujfw
Date: 26 September 2018
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 22 June 2018
Approval Date: 26 September 2018
Submission Date: 29 June 2018
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 126
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: scales, idealization, models, climate science
Date Deposited: 26 Sep 2018 21:35
Last Modified: 26 Sep 2018 21:35


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