Model templates within and between disciplines: from magnets to gases – and socio-economic systems

European Journal for Philosophy of Science 6 (3):377-400 (2016)
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One striking feature of the contemporary modelling practice is its interdisciplinary nature. The same equation forms, and mathematical and computational methods, are used across different disciplines, as well as within the same discipline. Are there, then, differences between intra- and interdisciplinary transfer, and can the comparison between the two provide more insight on the challenges of interdisciplinary theoretical work? We will study the development and various uses of the Ising model within physics, contrasting them to its applications to socio-economic systems. While the renormalization group methods justify the transfer of the Ising model within physics – by ascribing them to the same universality class – its application to socio-economic phenomena has no such theoretical grounding. As a result, the insights gained by modelling socio-economic phenomena by the Ising model may remain limited.

Author Profiles

Andrea Loettgers
University of Vienna
Tarja Knuuttila
University of Vienna


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