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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Royal Institute of Philosophy Lecture - Capturing Reality with Fictional Models

26th November 2014, 17:00 to 18:30, Williams Library, St Chad's College, South Bailey, Professor Margaret Morrison (University of Toronto and IAS Fellow at Durham University)

Royal Institute of Philosophy Lecture

As part of the North-East centre of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, the Department hosts regular Institute lectures.


Refreshments will be available from 5pm with commencement of the lecture at 5:30pm.

Abstract: Models are thought to be one of the most important tools for acquiring knowledge in physics, biology, economics and most other disciplines . But, in some cases these models are described as fictions because they are based on unrealistic assumptions about the systems the describe. Interestingly, the development of electromagnetism by Maxwell had its origins in a purely fictional model; yet that model provided the foundation for the modern theory used today. How is it possible that fictional models can provide us with knowledge of the physical world? I explore how reasoning with these models takes place, how they function as a source of information and how they might differ from their literary counterparts.