07 June 2011

Epistemology of models - and their output

So when we have a model of some natural phenomena, what can we say about the results? Some amateur philosophical observations . . .

First, the model is a rational construct. It may be inspired or motivated by empirical observations of the referent it is abstracting, but the model in the end is a rational construct. That means it involves all of the limits of such constructs - such as limited view of the referent, perspective driven evaluation of possibilities, and so on.

Second, the access to results of the model involve using empirical observations of the operation of the model. So this is empiricism based on rationalism.

Or is it? What if the model is considered as a rational construct of a generative item? Still a rational construct, but designed to also create rational constructs - meaning the results of the model (which can be many things - models have many possible degrees of freedom as output.

So what does this say about the epistemology of model results? Do they represent some possible (possibly counterfactual?) version of "the original" the model is inspired by (the referent)? Not precisely. I believe they are nothing more than the rational output of a rational construct, but they are inspired by the referent. Within certain identified bounded differences, they can serve as an abstraction for study or to reveal certain behavioral phenomena - but they are not epistemologically equivalent. More thoughts later.

Tags: , ,

Labels: ,