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Conference papers

Models and Formats of Representation

Abstract : Scientific models are most of the time assigned two main functions: representing the phenomena and allowing predictions. Their predictive power is generally thought of as depending on their representational power. The issue of the representational function of models is obscured by both the great heterogeneity of the class of things that are called "models" and a lack of clarity of what is to be understood by "representation". In this paper, I focus on a particularly important class of things that are called "models", namely non-physical entities that are presented as the imaginary referents of scientific laws. One example of them is the simple pendulum. This paper aims at answering the following question: What do we mean when we say that we use the simple pendulum to represent target systems? First, I propose a conception of representation that emphasizes the importance of what I call the "format" of a representation to the inferences it enables cognitive agents to draw. Then, I analyze what happens, in practice, when we say that we use the model of the simple pendulum to represent a target system. I show that the simple pendulum itself has to be characterized in various formats, which matter to the kind of reasoning that can be led, and that it is not, per se, the representing device. Indeed, representing a physical system always consists in using some particular device (equation, graph, description in natural language, schematic drawing), whose format matters to the inferences one can draw from it. Using the simple pendulum to represent a physical system consists in using representations in the same formats as those used in characterizing the model itself. The representational power of models of the kind of the simple pendulum lies in the formats that are used to characterize them and to represent physical systems. 411/a
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Contributor : Marion Vorms <>
Submitted on : Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 2:02:00 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, September 22, 2020 - 3:49:17 AM


  • HAL Id : halshs-00792027, version 1


Marion Vorms. Models and Formats of Representation. Central European University 2nd Graduate Conference, Mar 2008, Budapest, Hongrie. ⟨halshs-00792027⟩



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