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Hypothetical, not Fictional Worlds

Weinert, Friedel (2016) Hypothetical, not Fictional Worlds. Kairos, Journal of Philosophy of Science, 17 (1). pp. 110-136. ISSN 1647-659X


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This paper critically analyzes the fiction-view of scientific modeling, which exploits presumed analogies between literary fiction and model building in science. The basic idea is that in both fiction and scientific modeling fictional worlds are created. The paper argues that the fiction-view comes closest to certain scientific thought experiments, especially those involving demons in science and to literary movements like naturalism. But the paper concludes that the dissimilarities prevail over the similarities. The fiction-view fails to do justice to the plurality of model types used in science; it fails to realize that a function like idealization only makes sense in science because models, unlike works of fiction, can be de-idealized; it fails to distinguish sufficiently between the make-believe (fictional) worlds created in fiction and the hypothetical (as-if) worlds envisaged in models. Representation characterized in the fiction-view as a license to draw inferences does not sufficiently distinguish between inferences in fiction from inferences in scientific modeling. To highlight the contrast the paper proposes to explicate representation in terms of satisfaction of constraints.

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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Keywords: Abstraction, constraints, fiction-view, hypothetical worlds, idealization, models, representation
Subjects: General Issues > Models and Idealization
General Issues > Thought Experiments
Depositing User: Friedel Weinert
Date Deposited: 09 Feb 2017 17:38
Last Modified: 09 Feb 2017 17:38
Item ID: 12800
Journal or Publication Title: Kairos, Journal of Philosophy of Science
Publisher: Center for the Philosophy of Sciences of Lisbon University
Official URL:
DOI or Unique Handle:
Subjects: General Issues > Models and Idealization
General Issues > Thought Experiments
Date: December 2016
Page Range: pp. 110-136
Volume: 17
Number: 1
ISSN: 1647-659X

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