Instrumentalism

Discipline: Philosophy

Mainly now the theory that scientific laws and theories are not to be interpreted as stating truths, or as claiming objective correctness, but as instruments for the prediction of statements which can be tested by observation. It is in terms of usefulness rather than correctness that the laws are judged.

Instrumentalism has its greatest plausibility with theories about unobservable theoretical entities like quarks, and is contrasted with (one form of) realism.

'Instrumentalism' is also used for a development of pragmatism by John Dewey (1859-1952), and for a view that values (either in general or in some sphere, like aesthetics) should be regarded as instrumental (for example, in promoting satisfaction).

Also see: conventionalism

Source:
S E Toulmin, The Philosophy of Science (1953); develops an instrumentalist view

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