The Explanatory Dispensability of Idealizations

Samuel Baron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)

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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-386
Number of pages22
JournalSynthese: an international journal for epistemology, methodology and philosophy of science
Volume193
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes

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