Publication Date

2019

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.

School/Institute

Dianoia Institute of Philosophy

Document Type

Journal Article

Access Rights

ERA Access

Access may be restricted.

Share

COinS