Deflationary representation, inference, and practice

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Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, ISSN: 0039-3681, Vol: 49, Page: 36-47

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Mauricio Suárez
Elsevier BV
Arts and Humanities
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This paper defends the deflationary character of two recent views regarding scientific representation, namely RIG Hughes' DDI model and the inferential conception. It is first argued that these views' deflationism is akin to the homonymous position in discussions regarding the nature of truth. There, we are invited to consider the platitudes that the predicate “true” obeys at the level of practice, disregarding any deeper, or more substantive, account of its nature. More generally, for any concept X, a deflationary approach is then defined in opposition to a substantive approach, where a substantive approach to X is an analysis of X in terms of some property P, or relation R, accounting for and explaining the standard use of X. It then becomes possible to characterize a deflationary view of scientific representation in three distinct senses, namely: a “no-theory” view, a “minimalist” view, and a “use-based” view—in line with three standard deflationary responses in the philosophical literature on truth. It is then argued that both the DDI model and the inferential conception may be suitably understood in any of these three different senses. The application of these deflationary ‘hermeneutics’ moreover yields significant improvements on the DDI model, which bring it closer to the inferential conception. It is finally argued that what these approaches have in common—the key to any deflationary account of scientific representation—is the denial that scientific representation may be ultimately reduced to any substantive explanatory property of sources, or targets, or their relations.

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