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Workshop “New Work on Explanation and Understanding”

Location: Ludwigstr. 31, Room 021
Date: May 1, 2015

Speakers

Organizer

Program

TimeEvent
14:00 - 14:50 Karim Thébault, Seamus Bradley and Alexander Reutlinger: Modelling Inequality
14:50 - 15:40 Patricia Palacios: Do Renormalization Group Methods Explain Continuous Phase Transitions?
15:40 - 16:10 Coffee Break
16:10 - 17:00 Alexander Reutlinger, Dominik Hangleiter, and Stephan Hartmann: Understanding (With) Toy Models
17:10 - 18:00 Tim Räz: Euler’s Königsberg: The Explanatory Power of Mathematics
18:10 - 19:00 Michael Strevens: Truth and Understanding

Abstracts

Patricia Palacios: Do Renormalization Group Methods Explain Continuous Phase Transitions?

The success of renormalization group methods (RGMs) for predicting the behavior of continuous phase transitions is undoubtedly one of the major achievements of quantum field theory. Despite this fact it is far from clear to what extent RG allow us to explain this behavior. The aim of this talk is to defend the explanatory value of renormalization group methods by combining two apparently contradictory models of explanation. It shall be argued, furthermore, that only a reconciliation of these models allows us to endow renormalization group methods with explanatory power.top

Tim Räz: Euler’s Königsberg: The Explanatory Power of Mathematics

We analyze Leonhard Euler’s paper on the Königsberg bridges problem, which gives three different solutions to the problem. We put the analysis of Euler’s paper to work in the philosophical discussion on mathematical explanations. The difference between Euler’s three solutions can be interpreted in terms of explanatory power. The main differences are the degree to which the three solutions provide relevant information about the explanandum, and how efficient they are in retrieving this information. We propose that these factors contribute to explanatory power.

Alexander Reutlinger, Dominik Hangleiter, and Stephan Hartmann: Understanding (With) Toy Models

Toy models are highly idealised and extremely simple models. Although toy models are omnipresent across virtually all scientific disciplines, toy models are a surprisingly under-appreciated subject in philosophy of science. The main philosophical puzzle regarding toy models consists in that it is simply an unsettled question what the epistemic goal of toy modeling is. One interesting and promising proposal for answering this question is the claim that the primary function of toy models is to provide individual scientists with understanding. The aim of this paper is to precisely articulate and to defend this claim.top

Michael Strevens: Truth and Understanding

How can a model that stops short of representing the whole truth about the causal production of a phenomenon help us to understand the phenomenon? I answer this question from the perspective of what I call the simple view of understanding, on which to understand a phenomenon is to grasp a good explanation of the phenomenon. The simple theory suggests that the omission and distortion of causal details might potentially aid understanding in two ways. First, it might make for a better explanation of the phenomenon. Second, it might, without improving the explanation at all, help us to better grasp the explanation. I investigate both possibilities, finding value in each, and I show how they interact.top

Karim Thébault, Seamus Bradley and Alexander Reutlinger: Modelling Inequality

Econophysics is a new and exciting cross-disciplinary research held that applies models and modelling techniques from statistical physics to economic systems. It is not, however, without its critics: prominent figures in more mainstream economic theory have criticized some elements of the methodology of econophysics. One of the main lines of criticism concerns the nature of the modelling assumptions and idealisations involved, and a particular target are 'kinetic exchange' approaches used to model the emergence of inequality within the distribution of individual monetary income. This paper will consider such models in detail, and assess the warrant of the criticisms drawing both upon the philosophical literature on modelling and idealisation, and upon the notion of a 'maximum entropy explanation'. Our aim is to provide informed mediation of this important and interesting interdisciplinary debate, and our hope is to offer guidance with regard to both the practice of modeling inequality, and the inequality of modelling practice.top

Attendance

For information about practical matters and attendance, please contact the organizer: Alexander Reutlinger (Alexander.Reutlinger@lrz.uni-muenchen.de).