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Summary Report No. 86


A Note on Domains of Discourse - Logical Know-How for Integrated Environmental Modelling
C. C. Jaeger (October 2003)

Building computer models means implementing a mathematical structure on a piece of hardware in such a way that insights about some other phenomenon can be gained, remembered and communicated. For meaningful computer modelling, the phenomenon to be modelled must be described in a logically coherent way. This can be quite dicult, especially when a combination of highly heterogeneous scientific disciplines is needed, as is often the case in environmental research. The paper shows how the notion of a domain of discourse as developed by logicians can be used to map out the cognitive landscape of integrated modelling. This landscape is not a fixed universe, but a multiverse resonating with an evolving pluralism of domains of discourse. Integrated modelling involves a never-ending activity of translation between such domains, an activity that often goes hand in hand with major eorts to overcome conceptual confusions within given domains. For these purposes, a careful use of mathematics, including tools of formal logic presented in the paper, can be helpful. The concept of vulnerability as currently used in global change research is discussed as an example of the challenges to be met in integrated environmental modelling.


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