1st Edition

Visual Representations in Science
Concept and Epistemology

ISBN 9780367487058
Published December 17, 2020 by Routledge
384 Pages

USD $63.36

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Book Description

Visual representations (photographs, diagrams, etc.) play crucial roles in scientific processes. They help, for example, to communicate research results and hypotheses to scientific peers as well as to the lay audience. In genuine research activities they are used as evidence or as surrogates for research objects which are otherwise cognitively inaccessible. Despite their important functional roles in scientific practices, philosophers of science have more or less neglected visual representations in their analyses of epistemic methods and tools of reasoning in science. This book is meant to fill this gap. It presents a detailed investigation into central conceptual issues and into the epistemology of visual representations in science.

Chapter 4 of this book are freely available as downloadable Open Access PDFs  under a CC-BY 3.0 license. https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/tandfbis/rt-files/docs/Open+Access+Chapters/9781138089938_CCBYoachapter4.pdf

Table of Contents


List of Illustrations


1 Introduction

1.1 Topics and Methodology

2 What Are Scientific Visualisations?

2.1 Characteristics of Visual Representations in Science

2.1.1 Photographs

2.1.2 Imaging Techniques

2.1.3 Data Visualisations

2.1.4 Diagrams

2.1.5 Interim Results: what Can Be Learnt from Paradigmatic Instances?

2.2 The Nature of Depiction

2.2.1 Resemblance Theories

2.2.2 Conventionalism

2.2.3 Experience-based Theories

2.2.4 Recognition Theories

2.2.5 Mixed Theories and Image Science

2.2.6 Interim Results: what Can Be Learnt from Picture Theory?

2.3 Summary: Correlations Between Categories and Theories?

3 Functional Roles, Appearances and the Problem of Diversity

3.1 Context-orientated Approach

3.1.1 Exploratory vs. Explanatory Use

3.1.2 Context-related Problems

3.1.3 Reasons (I) – Causality and Informativeness

3.1.4 Reasons (II) – Trust and Reputation

3.1.5 Interim Results: what Can Be Learnt about Reasons?

3.2 A Social Explanation of Diversity

3.2.1 Preliminaries on Ludwik Fleck

3.2.2 Scientific Communication – Aims and Modes

3.2.3 Visual Representations as Proper Parts of Scientific Communication

3.2.4 Interim Results: what Can Be Learnt from Social Mechanisms?

3.3 Summary

4 The Epistemic Status of Scientific Visualisations

4.1 Visual Arguments?

4.1.1 The Philosophical Challenge

4.1.2 Laura Perini on Visual Representations in Scientific Arguments

4.1.3 Giving Reasons, Drawing Conclusions

4.1.4 Interim Results: what Can Be Learnt from Argumentation Theory?

4.2 The Cognitive Content of Visual Representations

4.2.1 Content Translatability and the Reducibility-Thesis

4.2.2 Perception and Non-propositional Content

4.2.3 Evolutionary Merits of Perception

4.2.4 Interim Results: what Can Be Learnt from Theories of Perception?

4.3 The Cognitive Value of Visualisations

4.3.1 Educational Psychology

4.3.2 Visual Representations and the Varieties of Knowledge

4.3.3 Visual Representations and Scientific Understanding

4.3.4 Interim Results: scientific Images as a Source of Knowledge and Understanding

4.4 Summary

5 Outlook: New Responsibilities?



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Nicola Mößner currently holds a position as a lecturer at the Department of Philosophy at the RWTH Aachen University, Germany. Between 2015 and 2016, she was a Junior Fellow at the Alfried Krupp Wissenschaftskolleg Greifswald, Germany. In the philosophy of science her main interests of research comprise, on the one hand, Ludwik Fleck’s theory of social dynamics and infl uences on epistemic processes in science and, on the other, the epistemic status of visual representations in processes of scientifi c reasoning and communication. She edited (together with Alfred Nordmann) Reasoning in Measurement (2017) and (together with Dimitri Liebsch) Visualisierung und Erkenntnis – Bildverstehen und Bildverwenden in Natur- und Geisteswissenschaften (2012). Another area of her specialisation is social epistemology. In this context she worked on the epistemology of testimony and published Wissen aus dem Zeugnis anderer – der Sonderfall medialer Berichterstattung (2010).

Support Material

Open Access Content

  • Chapter 4 (.pdf) The epistemic status of scientific visualisations

    Open Access content has been made available under a CC BY Creative Commons Attribution (CCBY) license