Being There and Getting There: A View on the Nature and Application of Models


This paper updates (2017) a previously-presented* model of models, which can be used to clarify discussion and analysis in a variety of disputes and debates, since many such discussions hinge on displaying or implying models about how things are related. Knowing about models does not itself supply any new information about our world, but it might help us to recognize when and how information is being conveyed on these matters, or where possibly it is being obscured. If a claim P is expressed in the context of a certain model, a disagreement about P may actually not be about whether the underlying model is accurate; it could reflect misunderstandings about the model’s assumptions or conventions. Also, in practice, constructed models are rarely fully elaborated for every detail, so misunderstandings can arise from apparent “gaps” in the model. In that case, developing and considering complementary versions of models can sometimes clarify ambiguities. Following the main analysis are several extended Case examples to illustrate the wide applicability of the models approach, for clarifying, if not necessarily “resolving”, numerous debates and issues. For example, a famous “counter example” by Nelson Goodman to a logical model proposed by Carnap is shown to be not as deal-breaking as presumed historically, if only plausible complementary models had been explored. And models sometimes presented as competing in Artificial Intelligence research— “Declarative” versus “Procedural”—can instead be viewed as good examples of “complementary” models. Also reconsidered in this light are some well-known, competing positions, by Russell, Strawson, and Kripke, in the literature regarding names, pointing, definite descriptions and “using” sentences, and so on. All these concepts are locatable within the presently proposed models analysis. Questions such as where “truth” resides (whether in sentences or in uses of sentences) are not settled in this paper; yet, practical questions about how testable claims about the world can be expressed by models are clarified. _* Original version presented at a University of Waterloo Philosophy Colloquium 1984

Author's Profile

William M. Goodman
University Of Ontario Institute Of Technology


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