Fictionalism and the elimination of theoretical terms

Philosophy of Science 39 (3):285-290 (1972)
The claim that theoretical entities are not real, that they are merely convenient fictions, has been defended and attacked in diverse ways. This paper is concerned with only one defense of the fictionalist thesis and with a certain realist attack on it. The defense in question is that theories which prima facie make reference to theoretical entities can be revised in such a way that no such apparent reference is made by eliminating all occurrences of theoretical expressions. It will be argued here that there is a procedure for revising theories which meets certain minimal criteria of adequacy, contrary to arguments in the literature. Further, it will be argued that the existence of this procedure provides neither sufficient nor necessary support for the fictionalist thesis, that this procedure is not of significance in the dispute between the fictionalist and the realist. Whether or not the theoretical-nontheoretical distinction is viable is another story which will not be told here. It will be assumed for the sake of argument that such a distinction can be drawn
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DOI 10.1086/288450
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