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Scientific counterfactuals as make-believe

Iranzo-Ribera, Noelia (2022) Scientific counterfactuals as make-believe. Synthese, 200 (6). ISSN 1573-0964

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Abstract

Counterfactuals abound in science, especially when reasoning about and with models. This often requires entertaining counterfactual conditionals with nomologically or metaphysically impossible antecedents, namely, counternomics or counterpossibles. In this paper I defend the <jats:italic>make-believe view of scientific counterfactuals</jats:italic>, a naturalised fiction-based account of counterfactuals in science which provides a means to evaluate their meanings independently of the possibility of the states of affairs their antecedents describe, and under which they have non-trivial truth-values. Fiction is here understood as imagination (in contrast with its most typical association with falsity), characterised as a propositional attitude of pretense or ‘make-believe’ (Walton 1990). The application of this theory to scientific counterfactuals makes their evaluation a game of make-believe: a counterfactual is (fictionally) true iff its antecedent and the rules of the game prescribe the imagining of its consequent (Kimpton-Nye 2020). The result is a practice-based account of counterfactuals and counterfactual reasoning in science which incorporates insights from theoretical and experimental analytic philosophy as well as cognitive science. This way, the make-believe view of scientific counterfactuals shows that the evaluation of scientific counterfactuals is none other than a question of scientific representation in disguise.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Iranzo-Ribera, Noelia0000-0002-5214-2575
Keywords: scientific counterfactuals, counternomics, counterpossibles, fictionalism about counterfactuals, make-believe, scientific models
Subjects: General Issues > Causation
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Laws of Nature
General Issues > Models and Idealization
Depositing User: Ms Noelia Iranzo-Ribera
Date Deposited: 18 May 2023 15:09
Last Modified: 18 May 2023 15:09
Item ID: 22112
Journal or Publication Title: Synthese
Publisher: Springer
Official URL: http://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-022-03949-8
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1007/s11229-022-03949-8
Subjects: General Issues > Causation
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Laws of Nature
General Issues > Models and Idealization
Date: 2022
Volume: 200
Number: 6
ISSN: 1573-0964
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/22112

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