The morals of model-making

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 46:31-45 (2014)
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I address questions about values in model-making in engineering, specifically: Might the role of values be attributable solely to interests involved in specifying and using the model? Selected examples illustrate the surprisingly wide variety of things one must take into account in the model-making itself. The notions of system , and physically similar systems are important and powerful in determining what is relevant to an engineering model. Another example illustrates how an idea to completely re-characterize, or reframe, an engineering problem arose during model-making.I employ a qualitative analogue of the notion of physically similar systems. Historical cases can thus be drawn upon; I illustrate with a comparison between a geoengineering proposal to inject, or spray, sulfate aerosols, and two different historical cases involving the spraying of DDT . The current geoengineering proposal is seen to be like the disastrous and counterproductive case, and unlike the successful case, of the spraying of DDT. I conclude by explaining my view that model-making in science is analogous to moral perception in action, drawing on a view in moral theory that has come to be called moral particularism

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Susan G. Sterrett
Wichita State University


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