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    Scientific models share one central characteristic with fiction: their relation to the physical world is ambiguous. It is often unclear whether an element in a model represents something in the world or presents an artifact of model building. Fiction, too, can resemble our world to varying degrees. However, we assign a different epistemic function to scientific representations. As artifacts of human activity, how are scientific representations allowing us to make inferences about real phenomena?…Read more
  •  465
    How much does stimulus input shape perception? The common-sense view is that our perceptions are representations of objects and their features and that the stimulus structures the perceptual object. The problem for this view concerns perceptual biases as responsible for distortions and the subjectivity of perceptual experience. These biases are increasingly studied as constitutive factors of brain processes in recent neuroscience. In neural network models the brain is said to cope with the pleth…Read more
  •  22
    How to be rational about empirical success in ongoing science: The case of the quantum nose and its critics
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 69 40-51. 2018.
    Empirical success is a central criterion for scientific decision-making. Yet its understanding in philosophical studies of science deserves renewed attention: Should philosophers think differently about the advancement of science when they deal with the uncertainty of outcome in ongoing research in comparison with historical episodes? This paper argues that normative appeals to empirical success in the evaluation of competing scientific explanations can result in unreliable conclusions, especial…Read more
  •  38
    The manipulability of what? The history of G-protein coupled receptors
    Biology and Philosophy 32 (6): 1317-1339. 2017.
    This paper tells the story of G-protein coupled receptors, one of the most important scientific objects in contemporary biochemistry and molecular biology. By looking at how cell membrane receptors turned from a speculative concept into a central element in modern biochemistry over the past 40 years, we revisit the role of manipulability as a criterion for entity realism in wet-lab research. The central argument is that manipulability as a condition for reality becomes meaningful only once scien…Read more
  •  539
    Is the sense of smell a source of aesthetic perception? Traditional philosophical aesthetics has centered on vision and audition but eliminated smell for its subjective and inherently affective character. This article dismantles the myth that olfaction is an unsophisticated sense. It makes a case for olfactory aesthetics by integrating recent insights in neuroscience with traditional expertise about flavor and fragrance assessment in perfumery and wine tasting. My analysis concerns the importanc…Read more
  •  240
    Science and Fiction: Analysing the Concept of Fiction in Science and its Limits
    Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 44 (2): 357-373. 2013.
    A recent and growing discussion in philosophy addresses the construction of models and their use in scientific reasoning by comparison with fiction. This comparison helps to explore the problem of mediated observation and, hence, the lack of an unambiguous reference of representations. Examining the usefulness of the concept of fiction for a comparison with non-denoting elements in science, the aim of this paper is to present reasonable grounds for drawing a distinction between these two kinds o…Read more
  •  61
    This article argues for a different outlook on the concept of extension, especially for the reference of general terms in scientific practice. Scientific realist interpretations of the two predominant theories of meaning, namely Descriptivism and Causal Theory, contend that a stable cluster of descriptions or an initial baptism fixes the extension of a general term such as a natural kind term. This view in which the meaning of general terms is presented as monosemantic and the referents as stabl…Read more
  •  498
    Sensory Measurements: Coordination and Standardization
    Biological Theory 10 (3): 200-211. 2015.
    Do sensory measurements deserve the label of “measurement”? We argue that they do. They fit with an epistemological view of measurement held in current philosophy of science, and they face the same kinds of epistemological challenges as physical measurements do: the problem of coordination and the problem of standardization. These problems are addressed through the process of “epistemic iteration,” for all measurements. We also argue for distinguishing the problem of standardization from the pro…Read more
  •  37
    What does it take for a scientific model to represent? Scientific models have received a great deal of attention in recent philosophical literature. Following Morgan and Morrison’s account of “Models as Mediators”, analysis of how models represent has changed from questioning what properties of models can be said to correlate with the world to asking how models are used to relate to an intended target-system. This turn to a practice-oriented approach of understanding models was a response to a g…Read more
  •  23
    Neurobiology studies mechanisms of cell signalling. A key question is how cells recognise specific signals. In this context, olfaction has become an important experimental system over the past 25 years. The olfactory system responds to an array of structurally diverse stimuli. The discovery of the olfactory receptors (ORs), recognising these stimuli, established the olfactory pathway as part of a greater group of signalling mechanisms mediated by G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). GPCRs are th…Read more
  •  513
    Philosophical discussion about the reality of sensory perceptions has been hijacked by two tendencies. First, talk about perception has been largely centered on vision. Second, the realism question is traditionally approached by attaching objects or material structures to matching contents of sensory perceptions. These tendencies have resulted in an argumentative impasse between realists and anti-realists, discussing the reliability of means by which the supposed causal information transfer from…Read more
  •  32
    Fiction in Science? Exploring the Reality of Theoretical Entities
    In Javier Cumpa, Greg Jesson & Guido Bonino (eds.), Defending Realism: Ontological and Epistemological Investigations, De Gruyter. pp. 291-310. 2014.
    This paper revisits the concept of fiction employed in recent debates about the reality of theoretical entities in the philosophy of science. From an anti-realist perspective the dependence of evidence for some scientific entities on mediated forms of observation and modelling strategies reflects a degree of construction that is argued to closely resemble fiction. As a realist’s response to this debate, this paper provides an analysis of fictional entities in comparison to real ones. I argue tha…Read more
  •  227
    Making Sense of Smell
    The Philosophers' Magazine 73 (2): 41-47. 2016.
    Short piece for The Philosophers' Magazine on why philosophers should pay attention to olfaction.