The Kac ring or the art of making idealisations

Jebeile, Julie (2020). The Kac ring or the art of making idealisations. Foundations of physics, 50(10), pp. 1152-1170. Springer 10.1007/s10701-020-00373-1

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In 1959, mathematician Mark Kac introduced a model, called the Kac ring, in order to elucidate the classical solution of Boltzmann to the problem of macroscopic irreversibility. However, the model is far from being a realistic representation of something. How can it be of any help here? In philosophy of science, it is often argued that models can provide explanations of the phenomenon they are said to approximate, in virtue of the truth they contain, and in spite of the idealisations they are made of. On this view, idealisations are not supposed to contribute to any explaining, and should not affect the global representational function of the model. But the Kac ring is a toy model that is only made of idealisations, and is still used trustworthily to understand the treatment of irreversible phenomena in statistical mechanics. In the paper, my aim is to argue that each idealisation ingeniously designed by the mathematician maintains the representational function of the Kac ring with the general properties of macroscopic irreversibility under scrutiny. Such an active role of idealisations in the representing has so far been overlooked and reflects the art of modelling.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Philosophy
10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)

UniBE Contributor:

Jebeile, Julie Alia Nina

Subjects:

100 Philosophy

ISSN:

0015-9018

Publisher:

Springer

Funders:

[4] Swiss National Science Foundation

Language:

English

Submitter:

Julie Alia Nina Jebeile

Date Deposited:

18 May 2021 16:43

Last Modified:

18 May 2021 16:43

Publisher DOI:

10.1007/s10701-020-00373-1

Uncontrolled Keywords:

scientific models, idealisations, toy models, irreversibility

BORIS DOI:

10.48350/155268

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/155268

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