The explanatory dispensability of idealizations

Journal article


Baron, Sam. (2016) The explanatory dispensability of idealizations. Synthese. 193(2), pp. 365 - 386. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-014-0517-z
AuthorsBaron, Sam
Abstract

Enhanced indispensability arguments seek to establish realism about mathematics based on the explanatory role that mathematics plays in science. Idealizations pose a problem for such arguments. Idealizations, in a similar way to mathematics, boost the explanatory credentials of our best scientific theories. And yet, idealizations are not the sorts of things that are supposed to attract a realist attitude. I argue that the explanatory symmetry between idealizations and mathematics can potentially be broken as follows: although idealizations contribute to the explanatory power of our best theories, they do not carry the explanatory load. It is at least open however that mathematics is load-carrying. To give this idea substance, I offer an analysis of what it is to carry the explanatory load in terms of difference-making and counterfactuals.

Keywordsidealization; explanation; indispensability; difference-making; counterfactuals
Year2016
JournalSynthese
Journal citation193 (2), pp. 365 - 386
PublisherSpringer Netherlands
ISSN0039-7857
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-014-0517-z
Scopus EID2-s2.0-84957940630
Page range365 - 386
Research GroupDianoia Institute of Philosophy
Publisher's version
File Access Level
Controlled
Place of publicationNetherlands
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