KLI Colloquia are informal, public talks that are followed by extensive dissussions. Speakers are KLI fellows or visiting researchers who are interested in presenting their work to an interdisciplinary audience and discussing it in a wider research context. We offer three types of talks:

1. Current Research Talks. KLI fellows or visiting researchers present and discuss their most recent research with the KLI fellows and the Vienna scientific community.

2. Future Research Talks. Visiting researchers present and discuss future projects and ideas togehter with the KLI fellows and the Vienna scientific community.

3. Professional Developmental Talks. Experts about research grants and applications at the Austrian and European levels present career opportunities and strategies to late-PhD and post-doctoral researchers.

  • The presentation language is English.
  • If you are interested in presenting your current or future work at the KLI, please contact the Scientific Director or the Executive Manager.

Event Details

Brian McLoone
KLI Colloquia
The Impossible Worlds Problem for Fictionalist Accounts of Evolutionary Models
2017-12-18 15:00 - 2017-12-18 16:30
Organized by KLI

Topic description / abstract:

Fictionalism is the view that at least some scientific models have the same ontological status as the worlds that are imagined when one reads a piece of literary fiction. A model of species richness is the same sort of thing, ontologically, as Shakespeare's Verona. But since fictionalists believe models exist in the imagination of modelers, one challenge for fictionalists is to explain how this view is compatible with the existence of scientific models that appear to be conceptually impossible. After all, at least ostensibly, what is conceptually impossible cannot be imagined. This criticism of fictionalism was recently articulated by Michael Weisberg (2013), and the criticism puts particular pressure on fictionalist accounts of evolutionary models, since many such models are conceptually impossible. For instance, these models, relying as they do on ordinary differential equations, allow there to be fractions of organisms—e.g., a population of 101.35 rabbits. If no such population is imaginable, then fictionalism would appear to be in trouble. But all is not lost for the fictionalist, or so I shall argue. The semantics of subjunctive conditionals can help fictionalism here, as can Daniel Gillespie's important work on the relationship between discrete and continuous models of population dynamics. 

Weisberg, M. (2013) Simulation and Similarity: Using Models to Explain the World. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.


Biographical note:

Brian McLoone received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2016, and is now an assistant professor in the School of Philosophy at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. Most of Brian's research concerns issues in philosophy of biology, particularly conceptual issues in evolutionary biology relating to natural selection, chance, causation, and explanation.