DRL facebook

Bokulich, Alisa, and . How scientific models can explain

2009, Synthese 180(1): 33-45.

Abstract: Scientific models invariably involve some degree of idealization, abstraction, or fictionalization of their target system. Nonetheless, I argue that there are circumstances under which such false models can offer genuine scientific explanations. After reviewing three different proposals in the literature for how models can explain, I shall introduce a more general account of what I call model explanations, which specify the conditions under which models can be counted as explanatory. I shall illustrate this new framework by applying it to the case of Bohr’s model of the atom, and conclude by drawing some distinctions between phenomenological models, explanatory models, and fictional models.

Comment: Interesting paper about scientific modelling. It is easy to read and could serve as an introduction to the topic. The paper explores three approaches to Model Explanations: mechanist model explanations, covering-law model explanations, and causal model explanations. The explanatory function in models is illustrated with the example of Bohr's atom. This article is recommended for undergraduate students.

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.

Elgin, Catherine, and . Understanding and The Facts

2007, Philosophical Studies 132: 33-42.

Abstract: If understanding is factive, the propositions that express an understanding are true. I argue that a factive conception of understanding is unduly restrictive. It neither reflects our practices in ascribing understanding nor does justice to contemporary science. For science uses idealizations and models that do not to mirror the facts. Strictly speaking, they are false. By appeal to exemplification, I devise a more generous, flexible conception of understanding that accommodates science, reflects our practices, and shows a sufficient but not slavish sensitivity to the facts.

Comment: This paper could be used in an undergraduate or graduate course on epistemology, philosophy of science, or any area in which the nature of understanding is at issue. The paper is quite brief and not particularly technical. It makes a good case for a claim that initially sounds very counterintuitive, so can serve as a good prompt for a discussion.

Gendler, Tamar Szabó, and Karson Kovakovich. Genuine Rational Fictional Emotions

2006, In Matthew Kieran (ed.), Contemporary Debates in Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art. Blackwell 241-253.

Abstract: The “paradox of fictional emotions” involves a trio of claims that are jointly inconsistent but individually plausible. Resolution of the paradox thus requires that we deny at least one of these plausible claims. The paradox has been formulated in various ways, but for the purposes of this chapter, we will focus on the following three claims, which we will refer to respectively as the Response Condition, the Belief Condition and the Coordination Condition.

Comment: This paper introduces the paradox of fiction, briefly discusses some challenges faced by those attempting to solve it, and offers a solution grounded in Damasio's research into the role of emotions in guiding action. It provides only a limited discussion of the previous debate, which makes it less suitable as an introductory text; it is best used in senior aesthetics classes or as a further reading. Its engagement with psychological literature means it can inspire discussions on the relations between philosophical and empirical explanations.

Keeshig-Tobias, Lenore, and . The Magic of Others

1990, In Language in Her Eye: Views on Writing and Gender by Canadian Women Writing in English, edited by Libby Scheier, Sarah Sheard and Eleanor Wachtel: Coach House Press

Summary: In this short selection, Keeshig-Tobias (Ojibway) raises questions about representation and authenticity in fiction about Native people written by non-Native authors. With reference to certain Native belief systems, she contextualizes why the telling of a story could be viewed as theft in a way that might seem counter-intuitive to a liberal Western audience.

Comment: This is a useful piece to pair with any of the more theoretical writings on cultural appropriation. It articulates some Native perspectives on cultural appropriation that may be less familiar to students, as well as pointing out problems with some of the assumptions on which defenses of cultural appropriation sometimes depend.

Kind, Amy, and . The Puzzle of Imaginative Desire

2011, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 89(3): 421-439.

Abstract: The puzzle of imaginative desire arises from the difficulty of accounting for the surprising behaviour of desire in imaginative activities such as our engagement with fiction and our games of pretend. Several philosophers have recently attempted to solve this puzzle by introducing a class of novel mental states – what they call desire-like imaginings or i-desires. In this paper, I argue that we should reject the i-desire solution to the puzzle of imaginative desire. The introduction of i-desires is both ontologically profligate and unnecessary, and, most importantly, fails to make sense of what we are doing in the imaginative contexts in question.

Comment: Kind provides good arguments against accepting the existence of "i-desires". This article would be useful to teach in the context of philosophy of mind, as well as in philosophy of art and fiction, as it engages with some of the issues surrounding "make-believe".

Morrison, Margaret, and . Fictions, representations, and reality

2009, In Mauricio Suárez (ed.), Fictions in Science: Philosophical Essays on Modeling and Idealization. Routledge.

Summary: Uses Maxwell’s model of the ether as a case study in accounting for the role of fictions in science. Argues that we should understand idealisation and abstraction as being different from fiction. Fictional models for Morrison are those that are deliberately intended to be such that the relationship between their structure and the structure of the concrete systems they model is not (immediately) apparent. This is different from mere idealisation, where certain structural features are omitted to make calculations more tractable.

Comment: Very useful as a primary or secondary reading in an advanced undergraduate course on philosophy of science (or perhaps on philosophy of fiction). It is philosophically sophisticated, but also treats the science in enough detail to provide students with some clear ideas about the nature of scientific representational practices themselves. Would be appropriate in sections on scientific representation or modelling.

Pointon, Marcia, and . Portrait, Fact and Fiction

2013, in: Portrayal and the Search for Identity, Reaktion Books, pp. 23-46.

Summary: Considers portraiture an unstable, destabilizing, potentially subversive art through which uncomfortable and unsettling convictions are negotiated. As such, it is primarily an instrumental art form, a kind of agency. Also argues that there is an element of the fictive involved in all portrait representations. Explains how portraiture is a slippery and seductive art.

Comment: Useful in discussing portraiture, as well as depiction and representation in general.

Artworks to use with this text:

Garibaldi at Caprera, frontispiece of G.M. Trevelyan, Garibaldi and the Thousand, May 1860 (1931 edition)

A reproduction of a photograph of a copy of a many times copied portrait of the guerilla leader. Devoid of monetary or aesthetic value. Not very likely that Garibaldi looked like this or posed for the artist. The portrait works to endow the historical narrative with its illusion of a unified subject.

Yagisawa, Takashi, and . Against Creationism in Fiction

2001, Noûs 35(s15): 153-172.

Abstract: Sherlock Holmes is a fictional individual. So is his favorite pipe. Our pre-theoretical intuition says that neither of them is real. It says that neither of them really, or actually, exists. It also says that there is a sense in which they do exist, namely, a sense in which they exist “in the world of” the Sherlock Holmes stories. Our pre-theoretical intuition says in general of any fictional individual that it does not actually exist but exists “in the world of” the relevant fiction. I wish to defend this pre-theoretical intuition. To do so, I need to defend two claims: that fictional individuals do not actually exist, and that they exist “in the world of” the relevant fiction. The aim of this paper is to defend the first claim.

Comment: A good argument against the existence of fictional characters. Clear presentation of the logic involved in various claims. In addition to ontology of art, the case of fictional characters can be an interesting way to present the arguments about ontology and linguistic commitment more generally, and this paper would be useful in that role as well.