Infinite lies and explanatory ties: Idealization in phase transitions

Journal article


Baron, Sam. (2019) Infinite lies and explanatory ties: Idealization in phase transitions. Synthese. 196(5), pp. 1939 - 1961. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-018-1678-y
AuthorsBaron, Sam
Abstract

Infinite idealizations appear in our best scientific explanations of phase transitions. This is thought by some to be paradoxical. In this paper I connect the existing literature on the phase transition paradox to work on the concept of indispensability, which arises in discussions of realism and anti-realism within the philosophy of science and the philosophy of mathematics. I formulate a version of the phase transition paradox based on the idea that infinite idealizations are explanatorily indispensable to our best science, and so ought to attract a realist attitude. I go on to offer a solution to the paradox by drawing a distinction between two types of indispensability: constructive and substantive indispensability. I argue that infinite idealizations are constructively indispensable to explanations of phase transitions, but not substantively indispensable. This helps to resolve the paradox, I maintain, since realist commitment tracks substantive, and not constructive, indispensability.

Keywordsidealization; infinite; explanation; indispensability; asymptotic
Year2019
JournalSynthese
Journal citation196 (5), pp. 1939 - 1961
PublisherSpringer Netherlands
ISSN0039-7857
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-018-1678-y
Scopus EID2-s2.0-85040777255
Page range1939 - 1961
Research GroupDianoia Institute of Philosophy
Place of publicationNetherlands
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https://acuresearchbank.acu.edu.au/item/85537/infinite-lies-and-explanatory-ties-idealization-in-phase-transitions

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