Playing with Molecules

Part of the New Directions in the Philosophy of Science book series (NDPS)


Chapter 4 examined the role models played in the development of our current three-dimensional conception of molecules. In this chapter, we will consider molecular modelling today. Does the make-believe view provide a good account of the way that molecular models are used, and the attitude that users take towards them? Our assessment will be based on an empirical study examining both hand-held physical models, made out of plastic balls and connecting rods, and computer modelling software. One way to find out if children are engaged in a game of make-believe is to listen to what they say when they are playing the game. If we see a child standing astride a broom shouting ‘giddy up!’ while his friend complains ‘it’s my turn to ride now!’, we quickly guess that they are pretending that the broom is a horse, that standing astride the broom counts as riding the horse, and so on. Of course, such evidence is not conclusive (the children may be hallucinating). Nevertheless, it provides us with some indication that the children are playing a game, and suggests what form their game takes. Similarly, in this chapter, we will assess the plausibility of the make-believe approach by examining the actions carried out by users of molecular models, and the way that they talk about those actions.1


Physical Model Molecular Model Visual Action Plastic Ball Teddy Bear 
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Copyright information

© Adam Toon 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of BielefeldGermany

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