Abstract Molecular biologists exploit information conveyed by mechanistic models for experimental purposes. In this article, I make sense of this aspect of biological practice by developing Keller’s idea of the distinction between ‘models of’ and ‘models for’. ‘Models of (phenomena)’ should be understood as models representing phenomena and are valuable if they explain phenomena. ‘Models for (manipulating phenomena)’ are new types of material manipulations and are important not because of their explanatory force, but because of the interventionist strategies they afford. This is a distinction between aspects of the same model. In molecular biology, models may be treated either as ‘models of’ or as ‘models for’. By analysing the discovery and characterization of restriction–modification systems and their exploitation for DNA cloning and mapping, I identify the differences between treating a model as a ‘model of’ or as a ‘model for’. These lie in the cognitive disposition of the modeller towards the model: a modeller will look at a model as a ‘model of’ if interested in its explanatory force, or as a ‘model for’ if interested in the material manipulations it can possibly afford. © The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 15, 2018
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