CfP: Approximation Methods in the Sciences

Contributions are invited to a Topical Collection of Synthese on:

“Approximation Methods in the Sciences.”

The Topical Collection is co-edited by Alexander Blum, James Fraser, and Pablo Ruiz de Olano. The Topical Collection follows up on two workshops on the same topic that took place at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, in the context of the Max Planck Research Group on “Historical Epistemology of the Final Theory Program.” For more details on this research group, please check:

Approximation methods, such as perturbative expansions, Hartree-Fock methods, and numerical integration techniques, play a central role in the practice of many areas of mathematized science. Yet, where philosophers of science had much to say about theories and models, approximation methods have received comparatively little attention. In many contexts, approximation methods essentially contribute to the representational and predictive capacities of theories and models, and thus need to be integrated into a complete account of these functions. At the same time, approximation methods are often detachable from particular models, being transferred between different areas of applied mathematics, raising new questions in the debate about analogies in science. Furthermore, focusing on approximation methods can provide a new way of framing historical and interpretive questions about particular theories and models. In the case of quantum field theory, the dominance of weak coupling perturbative expansions has had a major impact on the evolution and interpretation of the theory, with the notion of intermediate virtual particles arguably being tied to the perturbative approximation scheme, for instance. This topical collection brings together new historical and philosophical perspectives on the role played by approximation methods in the sciences.

Papers must be submitted through Editorial Manager:

Submission guidelines can be found here:

When submitting your paper, please select “T. C.: Approximation Methods in the Sciences” as article type from the dropdown menu in Editorial Manager.

All contributions will undergo the standard editorial procedure of Synthese, including double-blind peer review.

 The deadline for submissions is December 31, 2023.