Bokulich, Alisa, and . Distinguishing Explanatory from Nonexplanatory Fictions

2012, Philosophy of Science 79(5): 725-737.

Abstract: There is a growing recognition that fictions have a number of legitimate functions in science, even when it comes to scientific explanation. However, the question then arises, what distinguishes an explanatory fiction from a nonexplanatory one? Here I examine two cases – one in which there is a consensus in the scientific community that the fiction is explanatory and another in which the fiction is not explanatory. I shall show how my account of “model explanations” is able to explain this asymmetry, and argue that realism – of a more subtle form – does have a role in distinguishing explanatory from nonexplanatory fictions.

Comment: This would be useful in a course on the philosophy of science or the philosophy of fiction. It is particularly useful for teaching, as it is cutting edge in the philosophy of science but not particularly technical.