Why scientific models are not works of fiction

Abstract

The usual question, “Are models fictions?” is replaced by the question, “Should scientific models be regarded as works of fiction?” This makes it clear that the issue is not one of definition but of interpretation. First one must distinguish between the ontology of scientific models and their function in the practice of science. Theoretical models and works of fiction are ontologically on a par, their both being creations of human imagination. It is their differing functions in practice that makes it inappropriate to regard scientific models as works of fiction. Three reasons for thinking scientific models should be regarded as works of fiction are rejected. First, scientists themselves sometimes invoke the idea of fictions in their discussions of specific models. Second, many scientific models are physically impossible to realize in the real world. Third, regarding scientific models as works of fiction supports a general fictionalist understanding of scientific theories. It is concluded that promoting the general idea that scientific models are works of fiction unnecessarily supports attacks on the legitimacy of science itself.

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Author's Profile

Ronald Giere
Last affiliation: University of Minnesota

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Citations of this work

Models and Fictions in Science.Peter Godfrey-Smith - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 143 (1):101 - 116.

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