Finding truth in fictions: identifying non-fictions in imaginary cracks
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- Purves, G.M. Synthese (2013) 190: 235. doi:10.1007/s11229-012-0144-5
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I critically examine some recent work on the philosophy of scientific fictions, focusing on the work of Winsberg. By considering two case studies in fracture mechanics, the strip yield model and the imaginary crack method, I argue that his reliance upon the social norms associated with an element of a model forces him to remain silent whenever those norms fail to clearly match the characteristic of fictions or non-fictions. In its place, I propose a normative epistemology of fictions which clarifies a model’s ontological commitments when the community of scientists lack any clear, shared norms of use. Specifically, I will introduce a variational account of fictions as an extension of Laymon’s monotonic improvability account of idealizations. I will conclude by connecting this variational account of fictions to didactic fictions in general.