Against Fictionalism

Conference paper
Part of the Studies in Applied Philosophy, Epistemology and Rational Ethics book series (SAPERE, volume 8)

Abstract

Characteristic of model based science is its attachment to idealizations and abstractions. Idealizations are expressed by statements known to be false. Abstractions are suppressors of what is known to be true. Idealizations over-represent empirical phenomena. Abstractions under-represent them. In a sense, idealization and abstractions are one another’s duals. Either way, they are purposeful distortions of phenomena on the ground. Sometimes phenomena on the ground approximate to what their idealizations say of them. Sometimes nothing in nature approaches them in any finite degree. So wide is this gulf between reality and idealization that Nancy Cartwright was moved to say of them that they are “pure fictions”.

Keywords

Abstractions Dependency distribution Detonation Fictions Fictionalism Idealizations Models Semantics Semantic integration Unreasonable effectiveness 

Notes

Acknowledgments

For criticisms and suggestions I thank a friendly audience in Sestri, including Atocha Aliseda, Daniel Arista, Howard Callaway, Michel Ghins, Michael Hoffman, Michael Lissak, Lorenzo Magnani, Woosuk Park, and Paul Thagard. I regret that I lack names for the other helpful intervenors. An earlier version of parts of this essay was delivered in Paris at the kind invitation of l’Institut Jean Nicod in December 2011. For challenging comments I am grateful to Jérôme Pelletier and Anouk Barberousse, and others whose names now escape me. Apologies. For conversation or correspondence before or after the conference, I also thank Nancy Cartwright, Nicholas Griffin, Dale Jacquette, Dominic McIvor Lopes, Shahid Rahman, and especially Alirio Rosales. For technical support I am deeply indebted—indeed tethered—to Carol Woods.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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