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Bas C. van Fraassen presents an original exploration of how we represent the world. Science represents natural phenomena by means of theories, as well as in many concrete ways by such means as pictures, graphs, table-top models, and computer simulations. Scientific Representation begins with an inquiry into the nature of representation in general, drawing on such diverse sources as Plato's dialogues, the development of perspectival drawing in the Renaissance, and the geometric styles of modelling in modern physics. Starting with Mach's and Poincaré's analyses of measurement and the 'problem of coordination', van Fraassen then presents a view of measurement outcomes as representations. With respect to the theories of contemporary science he defends an empiricist structuralist version of the 'picture theory' of science, through an inquiry into the paradoxes that came to light in twentieth-century philosophies of science. Van Fraassen concludes with an analysis of the complex relationship between appearance and reality in the scientific world-picture.
Introduction: the 'picture theory of science'
PART ONE: REPRESENTATION
1.1:Representation of, Representation as
1.2:Imaging, Picturing, and Scaling
1.3:Pictorial Perspective and the Indexical
PART TWO. WINDOWS, ENGINES, AND MEASUREMENT
2.1:A Window on the Invisible World (?)
2.2:The Problem of Coordination
2.3: Measurement as Representation (1) The Physical Correlate
2.4:Measurement as Representation (2) Information
PART THREE. STRUCTURE AND PERSPECTIVE
3.1: From the Bildtheorie of science to paradox
3.2:The Longest Journey: Bertrand Russell
3.3:Carnap's Lost World and Putnam's Paradox
3.4: An Empiricist Structuralism
PART FOUR. APPEARANCE AND REALITY
4.1:Appearance vs. Reality in the Sciences
4.2:Rejecting the Appearance from Reality Criterion
"Although [...] Scientific Representation began life as a series of lectures, it is far more than that. Indeed, I regard it as the true successor to The Scientific Image, an even more mature exposition of an empiricist philosophy of science for a philosophical audience much broader than technical philosophers of science. It is a book rich in historical and contemporary insights which makes even greater breaks with the past than its influential predecessor. And the ever elegant style makes it a joy to read."
– Ronald N. Giere, Philosophy of Science
"Since Representation is contemporary, varied, exciting, provocative, profound, and (sometimes) sketchy [...] and since Representation is very accessible [...] it is an ideal book for stirring up discussion in a reading group as well as for introducing students to a host of topics in the philosophy of science that are currently discussed in journals and on conferences."
– Fred Muller, Studies in the History and Philosophy of Modern Psychics
"a typically erudite survey of many kinds of representation both outside science and within, ranging from portraits and perspective to maps and measurement [...] an ingenious thinker"
– David Papineau, Times Literary Supplement
"Densely argued, erudite and rich in examples from both art and science [...] Scientific Representation is both provocative and subtle, and will appeal to a more general readership as well as the science studies aficionado. It takes us beyond the issue of representation in science to offer one of the most well thought-out representations of science currently available."
– Steven French, Times Higher Education
"develops a sophisticated, intriguing, subtle line of argument [...] This is a book with an important and intricate story to tell, and it does it with so much attention to historical, philosophical, scientific, and even artistic details that makes it an occasion for a thousand wider meditations."
– Michela Massimi, International Studies in the Philosophy of Science
"One again, van Fraassen has given us an incredibly rich, learned and profound book that will be studied and argued about for decades to come."
– James Ladyman, Metascience
"Scientific Representation is an impressive, rich and sophisticated work."
– Otévio Bueno, Metascience