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Scientific Visualisation

Epistemic Weight and Surpluses

Marianne Richter

Much of the recent confidence in the future of science and technology stems from advances in scientific visualisation. But is it right to assume that visual – and especially pictorial – measures carry special epistemic weight in the context of scientific reasoning? Do pictorial approaches have any surpluses, compared to other semiotic types? This book delves into these issues from the point of view of the philosophy of science. New examples from the field of scientific visualisation are introduced in order to account for the epistemic weight and surpluses of syntactically dense – pictorial – symbol systems.
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IV Epistemic Weight and Epistemic Surpluses

Extract

It now remains to devise a framework against which it is possible to judge statements on the epistemic weight and surpluses of pictorial means. To this end, I will first scrutinise the literature for accounts that allow for the occurrences of pictorial means in science as opposed to linguistic means (cf. 4.1). The key finding of this survey will be that most of the current approaches tackle only one or two concepts of a four-part conceptual module. The latter is however needed to guarantee an efficient framework (cf. 4.1.4). The account that comes closest to the expectations in this and other regards is the one by L. Perini (2002ff.). I therefore devote an in-depth analysis to her view, particularly on the epistemic weight of pictorial symbol systems (cf. 4.2.1), and suggest modifications concerning the conceptual architecture (cf. 4.2.2). These modifications – especially the introduction of ad hoc syntaxes – should then also allow for practices that could not be taken into account so far, such as microscopy-like images (cf. 3.2). In terms of the epistemic surpluses, I will offer a more independent proposal for defining an open list of specific capacities (cf. 4.3). The limits of the resulting positions and the supportive conceptual apparatus will finally be revealed (cf. 4.4), so that future contributors can decide to search for other approaches – also depending on the developments in the academic fields.

Although things have improved, it is still to be noted that “[m]ost people writing about visual representations attempt to...

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