Darcy's Law and Structural Explanation in Hydrology

PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1992:23 - 35 (1992)
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Darcy's law is a phenomenological relationship for fluid flow rate that finds one of its principle applications in hydrology. Theoretical hydrologists rely upon a multiplicity of conceptual models to carry out approximate derivations of Darcy's law. These derivations provide structural explanations of the law; they require the application of fundamental principles, such as conservation of momentum, to idealized models of the porous media within which the flow occurs. In practice, recognition of the idealized conditions incorporated into models facilitates the empirical clarification of the domain within which the law remains accurate. Structural explanations also contribute to the physical interpretation of phenomenological parameters.

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James Hofmann
California State University, Fullerton


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