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Do fictions explain?

Nguyen, J; (2020) Do fictions explain? Synthese 10.1007/s11229-020-02931-6. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

I 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 (contra to what one might initially think about such models). 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.

Type: Article
Title: Do fictions explain?
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/s11229-020-02931-6
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-020-02931-6
Language: English
Additional information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Keywords: Models, Fictions, Representation, Explanation
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10116212
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