Making coherent senses of success in scientific modeling

Beckett Sterner, Christopher DiTeresi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Making sense of why something succeeded or failed is central to scientific practice: it provides an interpretation of what happened, i.e. an hypothesized explanation for the results, that informs scientists’ deliberations over their next steps. In philosophy, the realism debate has dominated the project of making sense of scientists’ success and failure claims, restricting its focus to whether truth or reliability best explain science’s most secure successes. Our aim, in contrast, will be to expand and advance the practice-oriented project sketched by Arthur Fine in his work on the Natural Ontological Attitude. An important obstacle to articulating a positive program, we suggest, has been overlooking how scientists adopt standardized rules and procedures in order to define and operationalize meanings for success and failure relative to their situated goals. To help fill this gap, we introduce two new ideas, design specifications and track records, and show how they advance our ability to make sense of scientific modeling practices while maintaining a deflationary stance toward the realism debate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number24
JournalEuropean Journal for Philosophy of Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Artificial viscosity
  • Idealization
  • Natural ontological attitude
  • Realism
  • Scientific modeling
  • Simulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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