The Modelling Attitude and its Roots in 19th Century Science

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2014

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Abstract

I locate the origins of the contemporary model- based scientific methodology in the ‘modelling attitude’ of philosophically minded scientists in the second half of the 19th century. I distinguish an English speaking modelling school (identified with William Thomson, James Clerk Maxwell, and their followers in Victorian British physics), and a German- speaking modelling school (identified with Hermann Von Helmholtz and his Berlin school, as well as Heinrich Hertz and Ludwig Boltzmann). I argue that both schools share a commitment to the ‘relativity’ of knowledge, and a consequent emphasis on reasoning via models as the main method for the acquisition of knowledge about the natural world.

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modern, structure of theories, scientific method, physics, model-based scientific methodology in the 19th century in English and German-speaking worlds

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