Is Model Building in Cosmology Special?

Beisbart, Claus (20 March 2019). Is Model Building in Cosmology Special? (Unpublished). In: Frühjahrstagung der Deutschen Physikalischen Gesellschaft. München. 18.-21.3.2019.

Cosmology is a very special endeavor. As has often been argued, it differs from other sciences because it faces some peculiar epistemological challenges: It is in some sense concerned with everything there is; its object, the Universe, is unique; and the latter can only be observed from a particular perspective. Now modelling can deal with such challenges; for instance, models can abstract away from various aspects and thus help to constitute the object of cosmology; and it is common that a model has a unique system as its target. However, it may well be that the special character of cosmology and its epistemological challenges reappear at the level of modeling. The aim of this talk is thus to answer the question of whether modeling in cosmology is beset by special problems. I start with listing the most severe challenges that have been claimed for cosmology. I then discuss how the research strategy of modeling can in principle overcome some of the challenges. After a short proposal to systematize model building in present-day cosmology, I explore in which sense the practice of modeling in cosmology is special. I argue that some challenges to cosmology reappear in the guise of underdetermination problems, but I also show that such problems are not uncommon in other applications of modeling. I further argue that most difficulties and anomalies in present-day modeling in cosmology, e.g. the core-cusp problem or problems that arise due to the interrelationships between processes at several scales, are contingent in that they do not derive from the special character of cosmology.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Philosophy
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Philosophy > Theoretical Philosophy
10 Strategic Research Centers > Center for Space and Habitability (CSH)

UniBE Contributor:

Beisbart, Claus


100 Philosophy
100 Philosophy > 120 Epistemology




Claus Beisbart

Date Deposited:

28 Apr 2020 13:44

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:38


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