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The Instrumentalist’s New Clothes

Darrell P. Rowbottom
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 78, No. 5 (December 2011), pp. 1200-1211
DOI: 10.1086/662267
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/662267
Page Count: 12
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The Instrumentalist’s New Clothes
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Abstract

This article develops a new version of instrumentalism, in light of progress in the realism debate in recent decades, and thereby defends the view that instrumentalism remains a viable philosophical position on science. The key idea is that talk of unobservable objects should be taken literally only when those objects are assigned properties (or described in terms of analogies involving things) with which we are experientially (or otherwise) acquainted. This is derivative from the instrumentalist tradition insofar as the distinction between unobservable and observable is taken to have significance with respect to meaning.

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