Modeling Plakat

Kommende Veranstaltungen

“Metaphysics as Modeling.
 Contemporary and Kantian Issues”

University of Trier, Germany
October 7.-8. 2021


Katherine Brading

Brigitte Falkenburg

Axel Gelfert

David Hommen/Kristina Engelhard

Michela Massimi

Sigfried Jaag/Markus Schrenk

James O' Shea

Laurie Ann Paul

Lorenzo Spagnesi


The use of models such as the Lotka-Volterra model for predator/prey-population-dynamics or the billiard ball model of gases have proven to be tremendously useful in the natural sciences. Here, we adopt the minimal working assumption that a “model is an imagined or hypothetical structure that we describe and investigate in the hope of using it to understand some more complex, real- world ‘target’ system or domain” (Godfrey-Smith 2006a, 6).

Recently, philosophers have suggested that applying models in metaphysics is also a legitimate, beneficial and necessary enterprise (Godfrey-Smith 2006a, 2012; Nolan 2005; Paul 2012; Brading manuscript for a critique). As examples for models in metaphysics have been given: Humean supervenience and Armstrong’s anti-Humeanism (Godfrey-Smith 2006a, 16) or the neuron diagrams in theories of causation (Paul 2012, 14), etc.

Using models in philosophy would not only make its method (even more) continuous with scientific method (which seems desirable to some), it has also been argued that applying models in metaphysics helps us to see progress in metaphysics/philosophy (Williamson 2017; 2018, ch. 10), for a modeling attitude might have the potential to make metaphysical theories more error robust: compare the scientific practice of curve-fitting that results in more robust and less error-fragile theories (see Forster and Sober 1994) to the excessive focus on counterexamples that is central to the so-called method of cases in philosophy. Once metaphysical theories are considered as models not just any intuitive verdicts about particular cases could play a decisive role in undermining such a theory/model.

If modeling plays a role in metaphysics, then the question also arises whether examples of it can be found in the history of philosophy or even approaches that reflect on it, albeit in different terms. In fact, in Kant's work, there are parts of his theory that can be interpreted as a modeling approach in metaphysics. His theory of the regulative use of transcendental ideas, for example, possibly allows such an interpretation. And there is also evidence in the "Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science" that Kant understood his dynamic theory of matter as a metaphysical model based on the theory of transcendental ideas.

Organizers: Kristina Engelhard (Trier), David Hommen (Trier), Siegfried Jaag (Düsseldorf), Markus Schrenk (Düsseldorf)

The workshop takes place as part of the research group “Inductive Metaphysics” (, funded by DFG.