The view that a scientific theory is to be regarded as an instrument for producing new predictions or new techniques for controlling events, but not as itself capable of literal truth or falsity. The most famous example of this claim is that of Andreas Oseander (or Osiander, 1498–1552), whose Preface to De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium advocated that Copernicus's heliocentric theory of the solar system should be accepted as a device for predicting eclipses and tides, but not regarded as true (and therefore potentially in conflict with Church doctrine). Instrumentalism diminishes the difficulty over our right to confidence in scientific theory, since it is easier to suppose that we have a right to adopt a theory as an instrument, than that we have a right to regard it as true. A tempting reaction to deep theoretical stress, such as the apparently incompatible wave–particle duality of quantum mechanics, is to suggest that each view serves as an instrument within its own proper sphere, and thereby to sidestep the theoretical urge to reconcile them. It is also tempting to take an instrumentalist (sometimes called heuristic) attitude to the use of devices such as sets, numbers, or possible worlds, that seem to facilitate our thinking in important ways, but not to deserve a place in our ontologies.
A difficult question in the philosophy of mind and language is to tell what distinguishes acceptance in a purely instrumentalist spirit from true belief. Philosophers of a pragmatist bent, whilst sympathetic to instrumentalism, will be especially prone to deny that there is a real distinction here, since in such a philosophy all belief is simply acceptance into the system deemed most useful.

Philosophy dictionary. . 2011.

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  • instrumentalism — INSTRUMENTALÍSM s.n. Concepţie filosofică potrivit căreia noţiunile, categoriile şi teoriile ştiinţifice nu reflectă realitatea obiectivă, fiind numai nişte instrumente pentru săvârşirea unor acţiuni utile individului. – Din fr. instrumentalisme …   Dicționar Român

  • Instrumentalism — In stru*men tal*ism, n. (Philos.) The view that the sanction of truth is its utility, or that truth is genuine only in so far as it is a valuable instrument. {In stru*men tal*ist}, n. Instrumentalism views truth as simply the value belonging to… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • instrumentalism — [in΄strə mənt′ liz΄əm] n. Philos. the pragmatic doctrine that ideas are plans for action serving as instruments for adjustment to the environment and that their validity is tested by their effectiveness …   English World dictionary

  • Instrumentalism — In the philosophy of science, instrumentalism is the view that concepts and theories are merely useful instruments whose worth is measured not by whether the concepts and theories are true or false (or correctly depict reality), but by how… …   Wikipedia

  • instrumentalism — noun Date: 1909 a doctrine that ideas are instruments of action and that their usefulness determines their truth …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • instrumentalism — /in streuh men tl iz euhm/, n. Philos. the variety of pragmatism developed by John Dewey, maintaining that the truth of an idea is determined by its success in the active solution of a problem and that the value of ideas is determined by their… …   Universalium

  • instrumentalism — noun In the philosophy of science, the view that concepts and theories are merely useful instruments whose worth is measured not by whether the concepts and theories are true or false (or correctly depict reality), but how effective they are in… …   Wiktionary

  • instrumentalism — See work, subjective experience of …   Dictionary of sociology

  • instrumentalism — doctrine that ideas are instruments of action Philosophical Isms …   Phrontistery dictionary

  • instrumentalism — n. philosophy that the truth of an idea is defined by how successful the idea is in solving problems …   English contemporary dictionary

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