Creating reality

Monk, John (2012). Creating reality. In: Bissell, Chris and Dillon, Chris eds. Ways of Thinking, Ways of Seeing: Mathematical and Other Modelling in Engineering and Technology. Automation, Collaboration, & E-Services (1). Berlin: Springer, pp. 1–28.




Analogues in the nineteenth century provided experimenters such as Lodge, Maxwell, Kirchhoff, Mach and Hertz with inspiration for mechanical descriptions of hidden physical processes that had, for example, electrical or magnetic properties, and suggested mechanical models that could illustrate their developing theories to a wider audience. Models and theories intertwine, since any confirmation or test of a theory has to show its predictive power in a specific situation. It is tempting to imagine that a model or theory is an accurate reflection of what takes place in reality; however prominent nineteenth century physicists and
latterly pragmatist philosophers have insisted that our descriptions of reality are of our own making and are a product of our institutions and customs. Models as part of our descriptive practices, therefore, make a ontribution to the construction of reality. This chapter discusses some of the nineteenth-century analogical models that offered ways of seeing and understanding physical phenomena, and goes on to discuss how philosophers have explored ways of thinking about the relationship between models and reality.

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