Models and Modeling in the Sciences

The main theme of the 12th Principia International Symposium will be “Models and Modeling in the Sciences”. Since the mid-twentieth century, scientific activity counts on the use of tools named models, which become ever more present in areas as diverse as quantum physics, psychology, mathematics, the social sciences, such as economics, sociology and anthropology, meteorology, and that which has become the center of our recent attentions, epidemiology, among many others. Models are used not only in the pure sciences, but also, and quite extensively, in the applied sciences and in technological research, indicating the ubiquity of these tools. Philosophy of science has noticed this increase in usage and has been seeking an understanding of models, in regard to their ontology, their epistemology, their methodology, their logic, their ethical, political, and social aspects. This philosophical debate gains intensity since the 1980s and generates some controversies. However, in the last ten years, philosophical and scientific communities have been reaching some important conclusions, systematizing our knowledge on models and modeling. Our 12th symposium aims both to present an overview of these conclusions and to highlight the open discussions, offering our community a broad perspective on the activity of modeling in the sciences.

Since this is a topic that crosses scientific and technological areas so diverse, models and modeling constitute an eminent theme of philosophical research; it is possible to state that only philosophy is fully able to contemplate scientific activity and its history so as to systematize knowledge of models and modeling. As a consequence, it is possible to say that only philosophy can offer a foundation for the theme of modeling to be approached in education without limiting the discussion to specific areas and, therefore, without limiting the view that students might develop on the subject. Hence, if we understand that science should be taught to our youth and, more than that, that it should be taught as a way of thinking and solving problems, then we will realize that it is of the greatest importance to understand the role of models and of the modeling methodology and to transmit that in education. The 12th Principia International Symposium aims at giving a further step towards such understanding and at bringing this discussion to our South-American and Brazilian contexts.

The eleven previous symposia in this series have been devoted, respectively, to Principles in Philosophy and in the Sciences (1999), The Philosophy of Bertrand Russell (2001), The Philosophy of Willard van Orman Quine (2003), The Philosophy of Donald Davidson (2005), The Philosophy of Bas van Fraassen (2007), Charles Darwin and his impact on philosophy and the sciences (2009), The Philosophy of Nelson Goodman (2011), The Philosophy of Hilary Putnam (2013), Possible Worlds and their Applications in Philosophy and the Sciences (2015), The Construction of Experience (2017), and The Quest for Knowledge (2019).

This Symposium is organized by the Epistemology and Logic Research Group (NEL-UFSC), in association with Principia: an international journal of epistemology, and supported by the Graduate Program in Philosophy and the Philosophy Department of Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC), Brazil.