Synthese 199 (1-2):3219-3244 (2020)
AbstractI argue that fictional models, construed as models that misrepresent certain ontological aspects of their target systems, can nevertheless explain why the latter exhibit certain behaviour. They can do this by accurately representing whatever it is that that behaviour counterfactually depends on. However, we should be sufficiently sensitive to different explanatory questions, i.e., ‘why does certain behaviour occur?’ versus ‘why does the counterfactual dependency invoked to answer that question actually hold?’. With this distinction in mind, I argue that whilst fictional models can answer the first sort of question, they do so in an unmysterious way. Moreover, I claim that the second question poses a dilemma for the defender of the idea that fictions can explain: either these models cannot answer these sorts of explanatory questions, precisely because they are fictional; or they can, but in a way that requires reinterpreting them such that they end up accurately representing the ontological basis of the counterfactual dependency, i.e., reinterpreting them so as to rob them of their fictional status. Thus, the existence of explanatory fictions does not put pressure on the idea that accurate representation of some aspect of a target system is a necessary condition on explaining that aspect.
Added to PP
Historical graph of downloads
References found in this work
Making Things Happen: A Theory of Causal Explanation.James Woodward - 2003 - Oxford University Press.
Simulation and Similarity: Using Models to Understand the World.Michael Weisberg - 2013 - Oxford University Press.
The Scientific Image.William Demopoulos & Bas C. van Fraassen - 1982 - Philosophical Review 91 (4):603.
Scientific Representation: Paradoxes of Perspective.Bas C. Van Fraassen - 2008 - Oxford University Press UK.
Citations of this work
Micro-level model explanation and counterfactual constraint.Samuel Schindler - 2022 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 12 (2):1-27.
Karl Jaspers and Artificial Neural Nets: On the Relation of Explaining and Understanding Artificial Intelligence in Medicine.Christopher Poppe & Georg Starke - 2022 - Ethics and Information Technology 24 (3).
Fictional mechanism explanations: clarifying explanatory holes in engineering science.Kristian González Barman - 2022 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 12 (2):1-19.
Similar books and articles
Can Asymptotic Models Be Explanatory?Mark Pexton - 2014 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 4 (2):233-252.
Fiction As a Vehicle for Truth: Moving Beyond the Ontic Conception.Alisa Bokulich - 2016 - The Monist 99 (3):260-279.
Distinguishing Explanatory From Nonexplanatory Fictions.Alisa Bokulich - 2012 - Philosophy of Science 79 (5):725-737.
Taking the Fictional Stance.Katherine Tullmann - 2016 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 59 (6):766-792.
How Fictional Accounts Can Explain.Robert Sugden - 2013 - Journal of Economic Methodology 20 (3):237 - 243.
Models and Fictions in Science.Peter Godfrey-Smith - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 143 (1):101 - 116.
Propositional Attitudes in Fiction.John Zeimbekis - 2004 - British Journal of Aesthetics 44 (3):261-276.
Fictions, Conditionals, and Stellar Astrophysics.Mauricio Suárez - 2013 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 27 (3):235-252.
Imagination Extended and Embedded: Artifactual Versus Fictional Accounts of Models.Tarja Knuuttila - 2017 - Synthese 198 (Suppl 21):5077-5097.
Non-Fictional Narrators in Fictional Narratives.Christian Folde - 2017 - British Journal of Aesthetics 57 (4):389-405.
Imaginative Desires and Interactive Fiction: On Wanting to Shoot Fictional Zombies.Nele Van De Mosselaer - 2020 - British Journal of Aesthetics 60 (3):241-251.