Puzzled by Idealizations and Understanding Their Functions

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Maki , U 2020 , ' Puzzled by Idealizations and Understanding Their Functions ' , Philosophy of the Social Sciences , vol. 50 , no. 3 , pp. 215-237 . https://doi.org/10.1177/0048393120917637

Title: Puzzled by Idealizations and Understanding Their Functions
Author: Maki, Uskali
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Practical Philosophy
Date: 2020-06
Language: eng
Number of pages: 23
Belongs to series: Philosophy of the Social Sciences
ISSN: 0048-3931
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/321539
Abstract: Idealization is ubiquitous in human cognition, and so is the inclination to be puzzled by it: what to make of ideal gas, infinitely large populations, homo economicus, perfectly just society, known to violate matters of fact? This is apparent in social science theorizing (from J. H. von Thunen, J. S. Mill, and Max Weber to Milton Friedman and Thomas Schelling), recent philosophy of science analyzing scientific modeling, and the debate over ideal and non-ideal theory in political philosophy (since John Rawls). I will offer a set of concepts and principles to improve transparency about the precise contents of idealizations (in terms of negligibility, applicability, tractability, and early-step status) and their distinct functions (such as contributing to minimal modeling, benchmark modeling, and how-possibly modeling).
Subject: idealization
ideal type
ideal and non-ideal theory
minimal model
benchmark model
how-possibly model
611 Philosophy

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