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Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Professor Eric Winsberg: A Function for Fictions in Science

22nd January 2008, 17:15 to 18:15, Debating Chamber, Palace Green

To a first approximation, fictions are representations that don’t concern themselves with truth. Science, to be sure, is full of representations. But the representations offered to us by science, or so we are inclined to think, are supposed to aim at truth, (or at least one of its cousins: accuracy, empirical adequacy, or reliability.) If the proper and immediate object of fictions is contrary to that of science, what role could there be for fictions in science?

I will argue for at least one important role for fictions in science, especially in the computationally intensive sciences of complex physical systems. Fictions, I will argue, are sometimes needed for extending the useful scope of theories and model-building frameworks beyond the limits of their traditional domains of application. One especially interesting way in which they do this is by helping to enable model builders to sew together incompatible theories and apply them in contexts in which neither theory by itself will do the job.

The above venue is located on Palace Green, upstairs in the Union Society Building, next door to the Almhouses Restaurant.

Contact enquiries.ias@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.