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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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Extract

The aim of this work was to offer an extended framework that accounts for the epistemic weight and epistemic surpluses of genuinely picture-like means, since – in stark contrast to their prevalence in scientific practice – these means have long been left aside in the philosophy of science. Among the rare explicit reasons for this neglect, the most salient one is that the here adopted definiens of picture-like means – syntactic density – directly rivals the syntactic requirements of arguments, namely with being composed of well-differentiated atomic parts which can be combined and recursively enhanced according to distinct rules. But this conflict can be resolved which is what I intended to show by taking into account ad hoc syntaxes. The latter allow for a redefinition of picture-like means in a way that reveals them as being formally tractable while keeping their integrity as picture-like means. Assuming that this has been successful, it still remains possible to continue the efforts of framework building at different points. Thus, I would like to close with some hints to further options for research.

First of all, the defining conditions of each conceptual variable could certainly be analysed in terms of their own defining conditions, etc., which might foster the integration and acceptance of this issue in the more general domains of philosophy, insofar as this would build a bridge to more fundamental issues (e.g. perception). Secondly, it is likewise possible to extend the empirical reference base – either in terms of the documentation of further research practices...

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