Bas C. van Fraassen presents an original exploration of how we represent the world. Science represents natural phenomena by means of theories, as well as in many concrete ways by such means as pictures, graphs, table-top models, and computer simulations. Scientific Representation begins with an inquiry into the nature of representation in general, drawing on such diverse sources as Plato's dialogues, the development of perspectival drawing in the Renaissance, and the geometric styles of modelling in modern physics. Starting with Mach's and Poincare's analyses of measurement and the 'problem of coordination', van Fraassen then presents a view of measurement outcomes as representations. With respect to the theories of contemporary science he defends an empiricist structuralist version of the 'picture theory' of science, through an inquiry into the paradoxes that came to light in twentieth-century philosophies of science. Van Fraassen concludes with an analysis of the complex relationship between appearance and reality in the scientific world-picture.
Bas van Fraassen is McCosh Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at San Francisco State University. His research interests straddle philosophical logic and philosophy of science, with special interests in empiricism, (anti-)realism, probability, foundations of relativity and quantum physics, and philosophy of literature. Born in the Netherlands, he studied and taught in Canada and thereafter in the USA; he is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Science and of the Netherlands Royal Academy of Sciences. Though concentrating on philosophy of science he makes occasional forays into philosophy of literature and the connections between art, literature, and science.
PART ONE: REPRESENTATION; PART TWO. WINDOWS, ENGINES, AND MEASUREMENT; PART THREE. STRUCTURE AND PERSPECTIVE; PART FOUR. APPEARANCE AND REALITY