Models as Felicitous Falsehoods


  • Catherine Elgin Harvard University



Felicitous falsehoods, epistemic access, distortion, as if


I argue that models enable us to understand reality in ways that we would be unable to do if we restricted ourselves to the unvarnished truth. The point is not just that the features that a model skirts can permissibly be neglected. They ought to be neglected. Too much information occludes patterns that figure in an understanding of the phenomena. The regularities a model reveals are real and informative. But many of them show up only under idealizing assumptions.


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Special Issue: Models and Modeling in the Sciences