Collin RiceSep 10, 2021
Explanation, Idealization, and Universality in Science
MIT Press 2021
Most of us agree that science aims to tell us what is true about the world. But how do we get at the truth by using theories and models that deliberately, pervasively, and ineliminably distort what they are about? How does a model that makes wholly unrealistic, even impossible, assumptions about reality help explain it and provide us with understanding? In Leveraging Distortions: Explanation, Idealization, and Universality in Science (MIT Press, 2021), Collin Rice tackles this puzzle by examining how idealization figures in the development of models and how such distortions help provide otherwise inaccessible explanations. Rice, an associate professor of philosophy at Bryn Mawr College, takes issue with the dominant view of scientific explanation as primarily a matter of providing causal information, and argues that providing information about what is irrelevant is what often does the explanatory work. The book presents a well-structured challenge to many of the views of scientific explanation that have dominated philosophy of science for decades.
Carrie Figdor is professor of philosophy at the University of Iowa.