Approximation and Idealization: Why the Difference Matters*

  title={Approximation and Idealization: Why the Difference Matters*},
  author={J. Norton},
  journal={Philosophy of Science},
  pages={207 - 232}
  • J. Norton
  • Published 2012
  • Mathematics
  • Philosophy of Science
It is proposed that we use the term “approximation” for inexact description of a target system and “idealization” for another system whose properties also provide an inexact description of the target system. Since systems generated by a limiting process can often have quite unexpected—even inconsistent—properties, familiar limit processes used in statistical physics can fail to provide idealizations but merely provide approximations. 
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