Epistemological Issues of Applying Scientific Knowledge: Why Model-Based Reasoning Supports Interdisciplinary Problem-Solving

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Contribution in the Symposium "Philosophical Challenges for the Institutional and Methodological Implementation of Interdisciplinarity"
Abstract: In science policy, it is generally acknowledged that science-based problem-solving requires interdisciplinary research. For example, policy makers invest in funding programs – such as Horizon 2020 – that aim to stimulate interdisciplinary research, yet the epistemological processes that lead to effective interdisciplinarity are poorly understood.
We may not even have a clear understanding of how scientific knowledge and research is applied in problem-solving (Boon, 2006). Traditional philosophy of science has been focusing on the justification of knowledge, implicitly assuming that knowledge about new, previously unexamined systems can be derived from logical or mathematical structures that are ultimately grounded on experiential and experimental data. However, the plausibility of this epistemological presupposition is highly dubious, both on metaphysical and on empirical grounds. It will be suggested that epistemological difficulties of interdisciplinarity – experienced, but often unsolved in scientific practices – are partly due to these deeply rooted presuppositions.
More recently, philosophers of science have turned focus to the modelling of real-world target systems, which in the context of this paper is adopted as an alternative to the idea that application of scientific knowledge consists in the derivation of mathematical models of concrete target-systems from justified theories (as in the semantic view). Based on their studies of scientific practices, authors such as Nersessian, MacLeod, Knuuttila, Boon and Loettgers, have convincingly shown that the construction of scientific models of complex systems such as in biomedical engineering and systems biology, disagrees to the semantic view, but is nevertheless epistemologically analyzable.
This insight will be taken a step further by arguing that a general structure can be found in how scientific models are compiled (Knuuttila and Boon, 2011), i.e., in the model-based-reasoning of scientists. It will be argued that this epistemology of model-based-reasoning is key to a methodology for interdisciplinary research in problem solving and science-based technological innovation.
Period6 Sep 2017
Event title6th Biennial Conference of the European Philosophy of Science Association 2017
Event typeConference
Conference number6
LocationExeter, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational