CfP: Idealization, Representation, Explanation Across the Sciences

Special Issues: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A
Guest editors: Elay Shech, Melissa Jacquart, Martin Zach 

One goal of the scientific endeavor is to explain phenomena. Often, scientists attempt to explain a phenomenon by way of representing it in some manner (such as with mathematics, models, or theory), which allows for an explanation of the phenomenon under investigation. However, in developing scientific representations, scientists often deploy simplifications and idealizations. As a result, scientific representations often provide only partial, and often distorted, accounts of the phenomenon in question. Philosophers have analyzed the nature and function of how scientists construct representations, deploy idealizations, and provide explanations. While the topics of idealization, representation, and explanation have been thoroughly discussed in the literature separately, they deserve further analysis in terms of the connections among themselves, across different scientific disciplines, and in relation to other central issues in philosophy of science such as the realism debate and confirmation theory.
The focus of this special issue is to address, among others, the following topics:
  • How can one account for the practice of employing assumptions that are strictly false but that nevertheless tell us something important about the world?
  • Can idealizations facilitate or aid in developing representations or offering explanations of phenomena? If so, how? If not, why not?
  • Is there always a conflict between idealization and accurate representation?
  • If explaining requires representing difference-makers responsible for the phenomenon in question, what happens if the difference-makers are misrepresented?
  • Are there any important differences for the role of idealization and representation in offering explanations in the context of modeling verses theory development?
  • Do idealizations and misrepresentations afford understanding (in addition to or instead of providing explanations)?
  • How are we to make sense of distinctively mathematical explanations of physical phenomenon that appear in science?
  • Should mathematical explanations in science be thought of as inaccurate representations or do they latch on to the ostensible mathematical nature of the natural world? 
  • Assuming that there are indispensable idealizations in science, can realists make sense of such state of affairs? Or does the presence of such idealization support empiricism?
  • More generally, do our practices of scientific representation support realism or empiricism?

We invite original contributions that address any (but are not necessarily limited to) these questions.
The deadline for submitting manuscripts is January 15, 2020
Submissions must not be under consideration for publication elsewhere. Submissions must be prepared for anonymous review and should not exceed 10,000 words, including abstract, footnotes, and references. Manuscripts should be submitted online via the EVISE system,, by selecting the Idealization, Representation, Explanation Special Issue (SI) from the list. Manuscripts must be prepared according to the instructions for authors available at
Further questions should be addressed to guest editors:
Elay Shech 
Melissa Jacquart 
Martin Zach