Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Robert de Neufville
Instrumentalism is the view that the value of scientific concepts and theories is determined not by whether they are literally true or correspond to reality in some sense, but by the extent to which they help us to make accurate empirical predictions or, as Larry Laudan has argued, help us to resolve conceptual problems. That is, instrumentalism is the view that scientific theories should be thought of primarily as tools for solving practical problems, rather than as meaningful descriptions of the natural world. Indeed, instrumentalists typically call into question whether it makes sense at all to think of theoretical terms as corresponding to external reality. In this sense, instrumentalism is directly opposed to scientific realism, which is the view that the point of scientific theories is not merely to generate reliable predictions, but to describe the world accurately. Instrumentalism is a ...