Models and other transferable means of surrogate reasoning

Stream leader: Uskali Mäki

Modelling and related techniques of surrogate reasoning are increasingly applied and transferred across the social sciences and other disciplines, giving rise to confusion and controversy that call for philosophical analysis and assistance. Science makes use of an astounding variety of models and other tools of surrogate reasoning, such as sets of mathematical equations, agent-based computer simulations, experimental systems, model organisms, physical miniatures of ecosystems, and much more. These provide the surrogate systems that scientists examine in place of, and in order to learn about, the world. We recognise three major ongoing or emerging trends. First, the (social) sciences are applying various techniques of surrogate reasoning at a growing rate next to, or at the expense of, other methods. Secondly, such techniques are increasingly crossing traditional disciplinary boundaries. Thirdly, not only are these developments reshaping the practices and standards of inquiry in the social sciences, they are also likely to transform the way in which social research will be applied in policy making.

The social and human sciences and their subfields are not uniform in their style of theorising, and there are often deep epistemological and ontological differences in their background assumptions. The heterogeneity of these disciplines and the increasing interdisciplinary transfer of modelling tools set the agenda for philosophical inquiry.