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Institute of Advanced Study

Professor Eric Winsberg

IAS Fellow & Pemberton Fellow at University College, Durham University (January - March 2008)

Professor Eric Winsberg, a philosopher of science and philosopher of physics, has degrees in philosophy and history and philosophy of science, with a PhD from Indiana University. He teaches philosophy at the University of South Florida in Tampa. He has held fellowships at the program for History and Philosophy of Science at Northwestern University, and the Zentrum für interdisziplinäre Forschung (Center for Interdisciplinary Research) at the University of Bielefeld, Germany.

Winsberg has published widely on the philosophy of physics and the philosophy of scientific modeling. His articles on the methodology of simulation, published in such places as Philosophy of Science, Synthese, and Science in Context, are among the most widely cited works on the philosophy of simulation in science. He has also published on the foundations of Quantum Mechanics and the foundations of Statistical Mechanics in the Journal of Philosophy and Philosophy of Science. His article "Can conditioning on the past hypothesis militate against the reversibility objections?" won the 2005 award for the best article published in Philosophy of Science by a recent PhD.

Professor Winsberg is currently working on a monograph of philosophical reflections on science in the age of computer simulation. During his time at the IAS he will be completing this project, as well as beginning research on the nature of uncertainty in complex models, particularly models of the climate.


IAS Fellow's Public Lecture - A Function for Fictions in Science

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?

He argues for at least one important role for fictions in science, especially in the computationally intensive sciences of complex physical systems. Fictions,he argues, 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.


Professor Eric Winsberg Publications

Winsberg, E. (2010) Science in the Age of Computer Simulation. Chichago: University of Chicago Press.


 


IAS Insights Paper

Abstract

To a first approximation, fictions are representations that do not 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: approximate truth, empirical adequacy, reliability.) If the proper and immediate object of fictions is contrary to the aims of science, what role could there be for fictions in science? This paper will argue for at least one important role for fictions in science, especially in the computationally intensive sciences of complex physical systems - in computer simulation. 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.

Insights Paper