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Introduction | Types of Instrumentalism
 
Introduction Back to Top

Instrumentalism is the methodological view in Epistemology and Philosophy of Science, advanced by the American philosopher John Dewey, that concepts and theories are merely useful instruments, and their worth is measured not by whether the concepts and theories are true or false (Instrumentalism denies that theories are truth-evaluable), or whether they correctly depict reality, but by how effective they are in explaining and predicting phenomena. It maintains that the truth of an idea is determined by its success in the active solution of a problem, and that the value of an idea is determined by its function in human experience.

In Philosophy of Mind, Instrumentalism is the view that propositional attitudes such as beliefs are not actually concepts on which we can base scientific investigations of the mind and brain, but that acting as if other beings do have beliefs is often a successful strategy.

Instrumentalism is closely related to Pragmatism (which stresses practical consequences as constituting the essential criterion in determining meaning, truth or value), and opposed to Scientific Realism (the view that the world described by science is the real world, independent of what we might take it to be).

Types of Instrumentalism Back to Top
  • Moral Instrumentalism (or Instrumentalist Morality) defines moral rules only as tools for moral good. Thus, the moral code arising from a given population is simply a collection of rules that are useful to that population. This view resembles Utilitarianism and developed from the teachings of David Hume and John Stuart Mill.
  • Political Instrumentalism is the view, developed by John Dewey from his instrumentalist and Pragmatist views, and from the much earlier writings of Niccolò Machiavelli, which sees politics as simply means to an end.
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