Abstract Models and Real-Life Systems

Constructive realism seems to me to be an attractive model that is able to recognize and seemingly overcome many of the obstacles of both realism and anti-realism. However, Simon’s brief discussion of constructive realism requires further explanation about the inner-working of constructive realism.
    Simon argues that “scientists use models to represent the world” (Simon,357) and goes on to say that models do their representing “through their role in theories” (Simon,357). This vague description may leave many realist and anti-realist wondering how these abstract constructed models can truly be a reflection of real-world systems. How do models and theories relate and reflect what is going on in real-life systems? Simon’s argument, although compelling, fails to show the relationship between these constructed models that represent the real world and the real world it self.
    Simon argues further that “constructive realism accepts that the real world has a modal, or causal, structure and that for a model to be acceptable, its modal structure must reflect the real-world’s modal structure”(Simon, 358). Not only does this raise questions about the relationship between models and the real world, it appears to lead us to a realist conclusion because if we accept that real-world systems have some causal structure, then shouldn’t we believe that the abstract models “constitute fundamental parts of the underlying structure of natural world” as well? Constructive realism may be a step in the right direction in order to accurately account for our medical ontology, but a greater explanation is required to understand how constructionism can work within a realist framework.


About troth19

I am a third year philosophy major at Queen's University.
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