Fiction As a Vehicle for Truth: Moving Beyond the Ontic Conception

The Monist 99 (3):260-279 (2016)
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Abstract
Despite widespread evidence that fictional models play an explanatory role in science, resistance remains to the idea that fictions can explain. A central source of this resistance is a particular view about what explanations are, namely, the ontic conception of explanation. According to the ontic conception, explanations just are the concrete entities in the world. I argue this conception is ultimately incoherent and that even a weaker version of the ontic conception fails. Fictional models can succeed in offering genuine explanations by correctly capturing relevant patterns of counterfactual dependence and licensing correct inferences. Using the example of Newtonian force explanations of the tides, I show how, even in science, fiction can be a vehicle for truth.
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Archival date: 2018-02-10
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