Representation and model-based explanation: is factive inferentialism sufficient?

Abstract

Highly idealized models may serve various epistemic functions, notably explanation, in virtue of representing the world. Inferentialism provides a prima facie compelling characterization of what constitutes the representation relation. In this paper, I argue that two brands of inferentialism, Suárez’s and what I call factive inferentialism, do not provide satisfactory criteria regarding what makes a scientific representation explanatory or accurate. First, I show that Suárez’s inferentialism is silent concerning how models can offer factive explanations. Then, I argue that factive inferentialism cannot by itself distinguish phenomenological from explanatory representation nor inaccurate from accurate representation. Finally, to strengthen FInf I propose that it substantiates the conditions for explanatory representation and that it rejects literalism.

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Philippe Verreault-Julien
Postdoctoral Researcher

I work on the epistemology of modelling, understanding, and explanation.