The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 10, 2001

Philosophy of Science

Lawrence Sklar
Pages 51-57

What Is an Isolated System?

In this paper, I want to focus attention on ways in which the role of idealization in science has been rather neglected by standard methodology, and suggest that this distinct role for idealization is the truly important role it plays in science. Further, I suggest that there are a number of important cases in theoretical science where the issue of idealization is not the issue of misrepresentation in some sense. Rather, the question is which of several alternative idealizations correctly represents the fundamental causalstructure of the world, and which idealizations, consequently, are appropriate for the scientific account of the world that is correct in its basic notion of what is an appropriate explanatory format for dealing with the physical phenomena in question. My argument is that the issues of idealization are important for methodology not primarily for the reasons that have so far exercised most philosophers of science who have worried about idealization in science.