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First joint MCMP-Hannover Workshop on Philosophy of Physics: Models (4-5 May 2018)

In philosophy of physics and philosophy of science, there has been a great deal of work devoted to examining the use and significance of models in physics. However, there remains much to be clarified about the different sense of "model" in play in this literature, and how they relate to one another. What similarities and differences obtain between toy models, data models, and models in the semantic view of theories? Are there important differences between abstract models such as these, and the concrete models used in analogue simulations? What role should models play in accounts of reduction and universality? This workshop, organised in collaboration with the philosophy of science group at Leibniz Universität Hannover, will seek answers to these and related questions.



Day 1 (Friday, 4 May 2018)

13:30 - 14:00 Registration
14:00 - 14:45 Patricia Palacios: Can Physics Tell Us Why (and When) Stable Democratic Systems May be Undesirable?
14:45 - 15:00 Break
15:00 - 15:45 Enno Fischer: Disagreeing Over Causes
15:45 - 16:15 Break
16:15 - 17:00 Mathias Frisch: 'Honey, I tuned the Model!’ On the Epistemology of Parameter Calibration
19:30 Dinner

Day 2 (Saturday, 5 May 2018)

09:30 - 10:00 Registration
10:00 - 10:45 Neil Dewar: Freeing Structuralism from Model Theory
10:45 - 11:00 Break
11:00 - 11:45 Joshua Luczak: It's My Model and I'll Represent If I Want To
11:45 - 12:00 Break
12:00 - 12:45 Laurenz Hudetz: Models of Interpretation


Radin Dardashti: On the Model/Theory Distinction

In practice, scientists tend to use the distinction between models and theories in a rather incoherent way. It seems as if there are several features associated with models and theories guiding their usage. For instance, scientists may regard a well confirmed model to be a theory. This, while in agreement with some of the usage, seems to be in disagreement with the Standard model of particle physics, which is incredibly well confirmed but still called a “model”. On the other hand, String Theory has not yet been confirmed empirically but is still called a “theory”. While the distinction between these may only be a point of semantics, I believe that a useful and more coherent distinction can be used in practice with significance for the explanation/prediction distinction discussed in the philosophy of science

Neil Dewar: Freeing Structuralism from Model Theory

Structural realists contend that the properties and relations in the world are more fundamental than the individuals. However, the standard model theory used to analyse the structure of logical theories can make it difficult to see how such an idea could be coherent or workable: for in that theory, properties and relations are constructed as sets of (tuples of) individuals. In this paper, I take a stroll through some ways in which resources from algebraic and categorical logic could be used to overcome this conceptual barrier. First, I look at how cylindric or polyadic algebras provide a rigorous way of grounding the idea that relations are prior to their relata (and compare this proposal to related pieces of "algebraic metaphysics" from Dasgupta and Rayo). Second, I look at how the generalised definability theory of Andréka and Németi gives us the means to regard models or theories as equivalent even when they appear to disagree radically over ontology, and consider what algebraic invariants could be associated with this equivalence

Enno Fischer: Disagreeing Over Causes

What is the role of norms in disagreement over causes? Joseph Halpern and Christopher Hitchcock (2015) have suggested that norms feature as normality orderings that help us selecting actual causes from a norm-free causal structure as provided in causal models. Here I argue that the theory faces limitations because in many cases of disagreement norms affect already our causal modelling practices. My claims will be supported by means of a case study that concerns the causal role of Search and Rescue missions in the context of shipwrecks of refugees in the Mediterranean

Mathias Frisch: 'Honey, I tuned the Model!’ On the Epistemology of Parameter Calibration

Complex climate models contain semi-empirical parameterizations, which need to be calibrated against existing data. In this talk I discuss the question whether successful tuning confirms a model in the same way as the successful prediction of (use-) novel data. I focus in particular on Bayesian confirmation theory and present a Bayesian argument for a modest

Laurenz Hudetz: Models of Interpretation

According to a widespread view, it is in general not sufficient for full theoretical equivalence that the formalisms of two theories are intertranslatable. Whether theories (or models) are fully equivalent depends on how their formalisms are empirically and ontologically interpreted. Even one and the same formalism may give rise to inequivalent theories when endowed with different interpretations. To explicate full equivalence according to this view, one needs to provide (1) a rigorous account of what it is to interpret a formalism, (2) precise preservation conditions for translations between formalisms that take interpretation into account.

This talk focuses on the first point. First, I explicate the notion of an uninterpreted formalism and explain how uninterpreted formalisms can be extended to pre-interpreted formalisms. Second, I show how pre-interpreted formalisms can be connected to data. For this purpose, I draw on the theory of relational databases to clarify what data collections and data schemas are. This leads to an explication of the notion of empirically interpreted formalisms. Third, I introduce the notion of an ontological conceptual schema in order to explain how the empirical interpretation of a framework can be extended to an ontological

Joshua Luczak: It's My Model and I'll Represent If I Want To

So much of the literature on modelling in science is concerned with representational models. Despite their importance, distinct nature, and presence, toy models, on the other hand, which are a kind of nonrepresentational model, are rarely discussed. This paper hopes to remedy this situation. It aims to elevate the status of toy models: by making clear and elaborating on the distinction between toy models and representational models, by highlighting and elaborating on a way in which the Ehrenfests' urn model, a simple statistical mechanical model, has been used as a toy model, and by explaining why it can be successfully used in this way without performing a representational

Patricia Palacios: Can Physics Tell Us Why (and When) Stable Democratic Systems May be Undesirable?

We examine the extant literature in sociophysics modeling, in particular models for voting contagion and Galam models for democratic voting in bottom up hierarchical systems, and suggest that they can be interpreted as minimal models (Weisberg 2007, Batterman and Rice 2014). We conclude that these highly idealized minimal models aid us in identifying possible interventions and can reveal a tension between democracy and stability. Indeed, they show that in some cases the most stable democratic regimes are not very democratic in the intuitive sense. The latter has odd implications for how to think about


No conference fee. The conference dinner is EUR 35 (drinks not included).


Please send notice to attend to Please say whether you plan to attend the conference dinner or not.


Main University Building
Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1
D-80539 München
Room A120

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