How do models give us knowledge? The case of Carnot’s ideal heat engine

Publication Year:
Usage 1092
Downloads 1092
Repository URL:
Knuuttila, Tarja; Boon, Mieke
conference paper description
Our concern is in explaining how and why models give us useful knowledge. We argue that if we are to understand how models function in the actual scientific practice the representational approach to models proves either misleading or too minimal. We propose turning from the representational approach to the artefactual, which implies also a new unit of analysis: the activity of modelling. Modelling, we suggest, could be approached as a specific practice in which concrete artefacts, i.e., models, are constructed with the help of specific representational means and used in various ways, for example, for the purposes of scientific reasoning, theory construction and design of experiments and other artefacts. Furthermore, in this activity of modelling the model construction is intertwined with the construction of new phenomena, theoretical principles and new scientific concepts. We will illustrate these claims by studying the construction of the ideal heat engine by Sadi Carnot.