Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP)

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Infinite Idealizations in Science (8-9 June, 2016)


Idea and Motivation

Infinite idealizations are assumptions that play an important role in physics, biology, economics, and many others sciences. Putative examples include an infinite population size in population genetics, an infinite number of components in the theory of phase transitions and an infinite number of persons consuming an infinite number of (infinitely divisible) goods in large-scale economic models. Although these idealizations are generally uncontroversial in the scientific community, they have been at the center of recent philosophical debates about reduction, explanation and the status of models in science. Yet, philosophers of the particular sciences addressing these issues have largely kept within the confines of their own specialist literature. One of our goals for the conference is to bring philosophers of physics, biology, economics, etc. together in conversation about infinite idealizations, thereby mapping what similarities and differences such idealizations may have across these fields.


Room Arrangement

DateTimeAddress, Room
8 June 09:00 - 18:30 Edmund-Rumpler-Str. 9, Room 010 & 119
9 June 09:40 - 18:30 Edmund-Rumpler-Str. 9, Room 119 & 180

Day 1 (8 June, 2016)

09:00 - 09:30 Registration
09:30 - 09:40 Welcome
09:40 - 11:10 Margaret Morrison: “Idealization vs. Abstraction: Making Room for the Infinite”
Chair: Patricia Palacios 
11:10 - 11:30 Coffee Break
11:30 - 12:15 Vincent Ardourel: “The Infinite Limit as an Eliminable Approximation for Phase Transitions”
Chair: Sebastian Lutz 
12:15 - 13:00 Sebastien Rivat: “Who's Afraid of Infinities? Reduction and Singularities in Phase Transitions”
Chair: Sebastian Lutz  
13:00 - 15:00 Lunch
15:00 - 15:45 Alexander Reutlinger and Juha Saatsi: “Taking Explanation To The Limit –Anti-reductionism and Renormalization Group Explanation of Universality”
Chair: Malte Doehne 
15:45 - 16:30 Jennifer Jhun, Patricia Palacios and James Weatherall: “Infinite Idealizations in Econophysics: On the Plausibility of Modeling Financial Crashes as Critical Phase Transitions”
Chair: Malte Doehne 
16:30 - 17:00 Coffee Break
17:00 - 18:30 Hartmut Kliemt: “Infinite Idealizations and Approximate Explanations in Economics”
Chair: Catherine Herfeld 
20:00 Workshop Dinner

Day 2 (9 June, 2016)

09:40 - 11:10 Marshall Abrams: “Innocuous Infinite Idealizations in Evolutionary Biology”
Chair: Andreea Esanu 
11:10 - 11:30 Coffee Break
11:30 - 12:15 Aydin Mohseni: “Fundamental Disagreements In Evolutionary Dynamics and Infinite Idealizations”
Chair: Adam Caulton 
12:15 - 13:00 Kate Vredenburgh: “Infinite Idealizations, Explanation, and Scientific Realism”
Chair: Adam Caulton 
13:00 - 15:00 Lunch
15:00 - 15:45 Pauline van Wierst: “Useful fictions? Actual Infinities in Physics”
Chair: Radin Dardashti 
15:45 - 16:30 Samuel Fletcher: “Emergence, Explanation, and (Infinite) Idealization”
Chair: Radin Dardashti 
16:30 - 17:00 Coffee Break
17:00 - 18:30 Michael Weisberg: Rapporteur Session
Chair: Samuel C. Fletcher 


The conference is supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation through an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship.

Photo Credits

Header background: Felipe Gabaldón, "Torre BBVA: detalle". Some right reserved (desaturated from original). Source: