This discussion paper proposes that a meaningful distinction between science and technoscience can be found at the level of the objects of research. Both notions intermingle in the attitudes, intentions, programs and projects of researchers and research institutions—that is, on the side of the subjects of research. But the difference between science and technoscience becomes more explicit when research results are presented in particular settings and when the objects of research are exhibited for the specific interest they hold. When an (...) experiment is presented as scientific evidence which confirms or disconfirms a hypothesis, this agrees with traditional conceptions of science. When organic molecules are presented for their capacity to serve individually as electric wires that carry surprisingly large currents, this would be a hallmark of technoscience. Accordingly, we propose research on the ontology of research objects. The focus on the character and significance of research objects makes this a specifically philosophical project. (shrink)
This book espouses an innovative theory of scientific realism in which due weight is given to mathematics and logic. The authors argue that mathematics can be understood realistically if it is seen to be the study of universals, of properties and relations, of patterns and structures, the kinds of things which can be in several places at once. Taking this kind of scientific platonism as their point of departure, they show how the theory of universals can account for probability, laws (...) of nature, causation, and explanation, and explore the consequences in all these fields. This will be an important book for all philosophers of science, logicians, and metaphysicians, and their graduate students. The readership will also include those outside philosophy interested in the interrelationship of philosophy and science. (shrink)
A realistic and dialectical conception of the epistemology of science is advanced according to which the acquisition of instrumental knowledge is parasitic upon the acquisition, by successive approximation, of theoretical knowledge. This conception is extended to provide an epistemological characterization of reference and of natural kinds, and it is integrated into recent naturalistic treatments of knowledge. Implications for several current issues in the philosophy of science are explored.
This work first appeared as Sidney Hook's dissertation, afterward quickly published by Open Court in 1927, the same year Hook began his long career at New York University. Heretofore difficult to find, it now appears as a handsome and timely reprint, carrying John Dewey's original "Introductory Word," and providing opportunity to look back at the pragmatist tradition and the controversial role of metaphysics in it.
The interpretation of quantum mechanics has always been a pain in the backside of scientific realism. Throughout its history, various anti-realist doctrines have dominated, associated with such luminaries as Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, and referred to collectively as ‘the Copenhagen interpretation’. The voice of realist dissent was thus marginalized, but never silenced. In recent years, renewed interest has attached to the possibility of a realist interpretation of quantum theory. Christopher Norris’ book is an effort in this tradition.
Minimally, causal realism (as understood here) is the view that accounts of causation in terms of mere, regular or probabilistic conjunction are unsatisfactory, and that causal phenomena are correctly associated with some form of de re necessity. Classic arguments, however, some of which date back to Sextus Empiricus and have appeared many times since, including famously in Russell, suggest that the very notion of causal realism is incoherent. In this paper I argue that if such objections seem compelling, it is (...) only because everyday expressions concerning causal phenomena are misleading with respect to certain metaphysical details. These expressions generally make reference to the relations of events or states of affairs, but ignore or obscure the role played by causal properties. I argue that on a proposed alternative, an analysis in terms of causal processes, more refined descriptions of causal phenomena escape the charge of incoherence. Causal necessity is here located in the relations of causal properties. I distinguish this view from the recent process theories of Salmon and Dowe, which are disinterested in causal realism. (shrink)
There is perhaps no more succinct a way of describing the controversy between scientific realists and antirealists than to say that it turns on the reality of the unobservable. Less concisely, it turns on whether we have reason to think that scientific theories tell us the truth (or something close to it) about some of the underlying, unobservable bits of a mind-independent, external reality, among other things. Claims to knowledge of such a reality have traditionally been a bone of contention (...) between realists and empiricists. Two decades ago, this ongoing debate was inflamed by the introduction of Bas van Fraassen’s particular brand of empiricism. Wholesale idealists and phenomenalists have been increasingly marginalized. The reality of the observable is now generally taken for granted by most parties to the debate. The epistemic status of the unobservable, however, remains controversial. (shrink)
The semantic view of theoriesis one according to which theoriesare construed as models of their linguisticformulations. The implications of thisview for scientific realism have been little discussed. Contraryto the suggestion of various champions of the semantic view,it is argued that this approach does not makesupport for a plausible scientific realism anyless problematic than it might otherwise be.Though a degree of independence of theory fromlanguage may ensure safety frompitfalls associated with logical empiricism, realism cannot be entertained unless models or (abstractedand/or idealized) (...) aspects thereof are spelled out in terms of linguistic formulations (such as mathematical equations),which can be interpreted in terms of correspondencewith the world. The putative advantage of thesemantic approach – its linguistic independence – isthus of no help to the realist. I consider recent treatmentsof the model-theoretic view (Suppe, Giere, Smith), and find that although some of these accounts harbour the promiseof realism, this promise is deceptive. (shrink)
A popular and plausible response against Laudan's “pessimistic induction” has been what I call “preservative realism,” which argues that there have actually been enough elements of scientific knowledge preserved through major theory‐change processes, and that those elements can be accepted realistically. This paper argues against preservative realism, in particular through a critical review of Psillos's argument concerning the case of the caloric theory of heat. Contrary to his argument, the historical record of the caloric theory reveals that beliefs about the (...) properties of material caloric, rejected by subsequent theories, were indeed central to the successes of the caloric theory. Therefore caloric remains a favorable case for Laudan. Further, I argue that even confirmed cases of preservation do not warrant an inference to truth. (shrink)
I propose a reformulation of realism, as the pursuit of ontological plausibility in our systems of knowledge. This is dubbed plausibility realism, for convenience of reference. Plausibility realism is non-empiricist, in the sense that it uses ontological plausibility as an independent criterion from empirical adequacy in evaluating systems of knowledge. Ontological plausibility is conceived as a precondition for intelligibility, nor for Truth; therefore, the function of plausibilty realism is to facilitate the kind of understanding that is not reducible to mere (...) description or prediction. Difficulties in making objective judgements of ontological plausibility can be ameliorated if we adhere to the most basic ontological principles. The workings of plausibility realism are illustrated through a detailed discussion of how one ontological principle, which I call the principle of single value, can be employed with great effect. Throughout the paper the discussion draws on concrete examples from the history of science. (shrink)
This paper discusses an argument for scientific realism put forward by Anthony Quinton in The Nature of Things. The argument – here called the controlled continuity argument – seems to have received no attention in the literature, apparently because it may easily be mistaken for a better-known argument, Grover Maxwell’s “argument from the continuum”. It is argued here that, in point of fact, the two are quite distinct and that Quinton’s argument has several advantages over Maxwell’s. The controlled continuity argument (...) is also compared to Ian Hacking’s “argument from coincidence”. It is pointed out that both arguments are to a large extent independent from considerations about high-level scientific theories, and that both are abductive arguments at the core. But these similarities do not dilute an important difference related to the fact that Quinton’s argument cleverly seeks to anchor belief in unobservable entities in realism about ordinary objects, which is a position shared by most contemporary scientific anti-realists. (shrink)
I consider two transcendental arguments for realism in the philosophy of science, which are due to Roy Bhaskar (A realist theory of science, 1975) and Nancy Cartwright (The dappled world, 1999). Bhaskar and Cartwright are both influential figures, however there is little discussion of their use of transcendental arguments in the literature. Here I seek to correct this oversight. I begin by describing the role of the transcendental arguments in question, in the context of the broader philosophical theories in which (...) they are embedded, by Bhaskar and Cartwright respectively. I then consider some specific problems that arise for these particular transcendental arguments, in the context of contemporary philosophy of science. I raise two general problems for transcendental arguments for realism and I finish by spelling out what needs to be done to address the criticisms raised in this paper. (shrink)
This paper defends scientific realism, the doctrine that we should interpret theories as being just as ontologically committing as beliefs at the observational level. I examine the character of observation to show that the difference in interpretation suggested by anti-realists is unwarranted. Second, I discuss Wilfrid Sellars'' approach to the issue. Finally, I provide a detailed study of recent work by Bas van Fraassen. While van Fraassen''s work is the focus of the paper, the conclusions are far broader: That a (...) wide family of anti-realist views (of which van Fraassen''s is only one) is problematic and unmotivated and hence to be rejected. (shrink)
This book introduces social scientists to the difference that critical realism can make to theorizing and methodological problems within the contemporary social sciences. The chapters, which cover such topics as cultural studies, feminism, globalization, heterodox economics, education policy, the self, and the "underclass" debate, are arranged in four sections dealing with some of the major topics in contemporary social science: ethics, the consequences of the "linguistic turn", methodology and globalization.
This paper addresses a central interpretive problem in understanding Pierre Duhem`s philosophy of science. The problem arises because there is textual support for both realist and antirealist readings of his work. I argue that his realist and antirealist claims are different. For Duhem, scientific reasoning leads straight to antirealism. But intuition (reasons of the heart) motivates, without justifying, a kind of realism. I develop this idea to suggest a motivational realist interpretation of Duhem`s philosophy.
A Critique of Localized Realism Abstract In an attempt to avert Laudan’s pessimistic induction, Worrall and Psillos introduce a narrower version of scientific realism. According to this version, which can be referred to as “localized realism”, realists need not accept every component in a successful theory. They are supposed only to accept those components that led to the theory’s empirical success. Consequently, realists can avoid believing in dubious entities like the caloric and ether. This paper examines and critiques localized realism. (...) It also scrutinizes Psillos’s historical study of the caloric theory of heat, which is intended to support localized realism. (shrink)
What is the ultimate nature of reality? This paper defends an answer in terms of informational realism (IR). It does so in three stages. First, it is shown that, within the debate about structural realism (SR), epistemic (ESR) and ontic (OSR) structural realism are reconcilable by using the methodology of the levels of abstractions. It follows that OSR is defensible from a structuralist-friendly position. Second, it is argued that OSR is also plausible, because not all related objects are logically prior (...) to all relational structures. The relation of difference is at least as fundamental as (because constitutive of) any relata. Third, it is suggested that an ontology of structural objects for OSR can reasonably be developed in terms of informational objects, and that Object Oriented Programming provides a flexible and powerful methodology with which to clarify and make precise the concept of “informational object”. The outcome is informational realism, the view that the world is the totality of informational objects dynamically interacting with each other.. (shrink)
This paper describes Heidegger as a robust scientific realist, explains why his view has received such conflicting treatment, and concludes that the special significance of his position lies in his insistence upon linking the discussion of science to the question of its relation with technology. It shows that Heidegger, rather than accepting the usual forced option between realism and antirealism, advocates a realism in which he embeds the antirealist thesis that the idea of reality independent of human understanding is unintelligible. (...) This reading is defended against Rorty's antirealist interpretation, as well as Dreyfus' depiction of him as a deflationary realist, and his assessment of background realism is contrasted with Fine's. Further, the robustness of Heidegger's realism is laid out across several texts from 1912 to 1976, in order to show that he is neither an instrumental realist nor an internal realist. Finally, the point is made that the development of his view concerning realism gives rise to a critique of objectivity that is now being similarly advocated by numerous thinkers from a variety of disciplines, and that this critique is inevitably ethical and political. (shrink)
Pierre Duhem rejected unambiguously the strong version of realism that he believed was held by Copernicus. In fact, although Copernicus believed that his theory was clearly superior to Ptolemy's, he seems to have recognized that his theory was at best only approximately true. Accordingly, he recognized that his arguments were not demonstrative in the traditional sense but probable and persuasive. Duhem regarded even the belief in probably true explanations as misguided. Nevertheless, Duhem recognized that, even if metaphysical intuition does not (...) enter into the content of physical theories, the rejection of hypotheses could be explained only by appeal to common sense. Hence, Duhem held a qualified instrumentalism according to which physical theories are not realist, but the terms of ordinary experience and empirical laws are realist. Accordingly, Duhem rejected the complete subordination of science to philosophy as well as the complete separation of science from philosophy. Duhem's history of cosmological doctrines reflects his belief in the origin of the subordination of science to philosophy and of the struggle to achieve the proper balance without being driven to the opposite extreme of their complete separation. (shrink)
Microphysical realism is the position that the only real entities and properties are found at the most fundamental level of nature. In this article, I challenge microphysical realism concerning properties and natural kinds. One argument for microphysical realism about entities, the “nothing-but argument,” does not apply to properties and kinds. Another argument, the “causal exclusion argument,” cannot be sustained in light of modern physics. Moreover, this argument leads to an objection against microphysical realism, based on the “illusoriness of macroproperties.” Another (...) objection is based on the possibility that there is no fundamental level but a “bottomless pit.”. (shrink)
Scientific essentialism holds that: (1) each scientific kind is associated with the same set of properties in every possible world; and (2) every individual member of a scientific kind belongs to that kind in every possible world in which it exists. Recently, Ellis (Scientific essentialism, 2001 ; The philosophy of nature 2002 ) has provided the most sustained defense of scientific essentialism, though he does not clearly distinguish these two claims. In this paper, I argue that both claims face a (...) number of formidable difficulties. The necessities of scientific essentialism are not adequately distinguished from semantic necessities, they have not been shown to be necessities in the strictest sense, they must be relativized to context, and they must either be confined to a subset of scientific properties without warrant or their connection to causal powers must be revoked. Moreover, upon closer examination (1) turns out to be a trivial thesis that can be satisfied by non-kinds, and (2) is inapplicable to some of the most fundamental kinds in the basic sciences. (shrink)
The question of the role of theory in the determination of reference of theoretical terms continues to be a controversial one. In the present paper I assess a number of responses to this question (including variations on David Lewis’s appeal to Ramsification), before describing an alternative, epistemically oriented account of the reference-determination of such terms. The paper concludes by discussing some implications of the account for our understanding of both realism and such competitors of realism as constructive empiricism.
In response to historical challenges, advocates of a sophisticated variant of scientific realism emphasize that theoretical systems can be divided into numerous constituents. Setting aside any epistemic commitment to the systems themselves, they maintain that we can justifiably believe those specific constituents that are deployed in key successful predictions. Stathis Psillos articulates an explicit criterion for discerning exactly which theoretical constituents qualify. I critique Psillos's criterion in detail. I then test the more general deployment realist intuition against a set of (...) well-known historical cases, whose significance has, I contend, been overlooked. I conclude that this sophisticated form of realism remains threatened by the historical argument that prompted it. A criterion for scientific realism Assessing the criterion A return to the crucial insight: responsibility A few case studies Assessing deployment realism. (shrink)
In this paper, I consider Kitcher's (1993) account of reference for the expressions of past science. Kitcher's case study is of Joseph Priestley and his expression `dephlogisticated air'. There is a strong intuitive case that `dephlogisticated air' referred to oxygen, but it was underpinned by very mistaken phlogiston theory, so concluding either that dephlogisticated air referred straightforwardly or that it failed to refer both have unpalatable consequences. Kitcher argues that the reference of such terms is best considered relative to each (...) token--some tokens refer, and others do not. His account thus relies crucially on how this distinction between tokens can be made good--a puzzle I call the discrimination problem. I argue that the discrimination problem cannot be solved. On any reading of Kitcher's defence of the distinction, the grounds provided are either insufficient or illegitimate. On the first reading, Kitcher violates the principle of humanity by making Priestley's referential success a matter of the mental contents of modern speakers. The second reading sidesteps the problem of beliefs by appealing to mind-independent facts, but I argue that these are insufficient to achieve reference because of the indeterminacy introduced by the qua problem. On the third and final reading, Priestley's success is given by what he would say in counterfactual circumstances. I argue that even if there are facts about what Priestley would say, and there is reason for doubt, there is no motivation to think that such facts determine how Priestley referred in the actual world. (shrink)
Sciences are often regarded as providing the best, or, ideally, exact, knowledge of the world, especially in providing laws of nature. Ilya Prigogine, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for his theory of non-equilibrium chemical processes—this being also an important attempt to bridge the gap between exact and non-exact sciences [mentioned in the Presentation Speech by Professor Stig Claesson (nobelprize.org, The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1977)]—has had this ideal in mind when trying to formulate a new kind of science. Philosophers (...) of science distinguish theory and reality, examining relations between these two. Nancy Cartwright’s distinction of fundamental and phenomenological laws, Rein Vihalemm’s conception of the peculiarity of the exact sciences, and Ronald Giere’s account of models in science and science as a set of models are deployed in this article to criticise the common view of science and analyse Ilya Prigogine’s view in particular. We will conclude that on a more abstract, philosophical level, Prigogine’s understanding of science doesn’t differ from the common understanding. (shrink)
In this paper, through a critical examination of Wray’s version of the argument from underconsideration against scientific realism, I articulate a modest version of scientific realism. This modest realist position, which I call “relative realism,” preserves the scientific realist’s optimism about science’s ability to get closer to the truth while, at the same time, taking on board the antirealist’s premise that theory evaluation is comparative, and thus that there are no good reasons to think that science’s best theories are close (...) to the truth. (shrink)
This book comes to the rescue of scientific realism, showing that reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated. Philosophical realism holds that the aim of a particular discourse is to make true statements about its subject matter. Ilkka Niiniluoto surveys different kinds of realism in various areas of philosophy and then sets out his own critical realist philosophy of science.
Paul Churchland's philosophical work enjoys an increasing popularity. His imaginative papers on cognitive science and the philosophy of psychology are widely discussed. Scientific Realism and the Plasticity of Mind (1979), his major book, is an important contribution to the debate on realism. Churchland provides us with the intellectual tools for constructing a unified scientific Weltanschauung. His network theory of language implies a provocative view of the relation between science and common sense. This paper contains a critical examination of Churchland's network (...) theory of language, which is the foundation of his philosophy. It is argued that the network theory should be seen as deriving its point from traditional empiricism. The network theory enables the empiricist to resist the phenomenalistic temptations inherent in his position, and to build a realist philosophy on the basis of the representative theory of perception. This interpretation is confirmed by the fact that the representative theory is presupposed by Churchland's main argument in favour of the network view. Churchland tends to conceive of himself as a naturalistic epistemologist. But the philosophical faction to which Churchland belongs is rather that of modern neo?Kantianism. (shrink)
Popper formulates and explains his non-justificationist theory of knowledge. Science--empirical science--aims at true explanatory theories, yet it can never prove, finally establish, or justify any of its theories as true, not even if it is in fact a true theory. Science must continue to question and criticize all its theories, even those which happen to be true.
This paper offers an intellectual history of the scientific realism debate during the twentieth century. The telling of the tale will explain the philosophical significance and the prospects of the scientific realism debate, through the major turns it went through. The emphasis will be on the relations between empiricism and scientific realism and on the swing from metaphysics-hostile to metaphysics-friendly versions of realism.
Chakravartty claims that science does not imply any specific metaphysical theory of the world. In this sense, science is consistent with both neo-Aristotelianism and neo-Humeanism. But, along with many others, he thinks that a neo-Aristotelian outlook best suits science. In other words, neo-Aristotelianism is supposed to win on the basis of an inference to the best explanation (IBE). I fail to see how IBE can be used to favour neo-Aristotelianism over neo-Humeanism. In this essay, I aim to do two things. (...) Firstly, I explain why this failure is not idiosyncratic: it should be there even by Chakravartty's lights. Secondly, I raise some critical worries about Chakravartty's semirealism, especially in connection with the concept of a 'concrete structure' and the detection/auxiliary distinction. The essay ends with a dilemma: an exclusive disjunction encapsulated in its title. (shrink)
A natural way to think of models is as abstract entities. If theories employ models to represent the world, theories traffic in abstract entities much more widely than is often assumed. This kind of thought seems to create a problem for a scientific realist approach to theories. Scientific realists claim theories should be understood literally. Do they then imply (and are they committed to) the reality of abstract entities? Or are theories simply—and incurably—false (if there are no abstract entities)? Or (...) has the very idea of literal understanding to be abandoned? Is then fictionalism towards scientific theories inevitable? This paper argues that scientific realism can happily co-exist with models qua abstracta. (shrink)
The thought that there is a way to reconcile empiricism with a realist stance towards scientific theories, avoiding instrumentalism and without fearing that this will lead straight to metaphysics, seems very promising. This paper aims to articulate this thought. It consists of two parts. The first (sections 2 and 3) will articulate how empiricism can go for scientific realism without metaphysical anxiety. It will draw on the work of Moritz Schlick, Hans Reichenbach and Herbert Feigl to develop an indispensability argument (...) for the adoption of the realist framework. This argument, unlike current realist arguments, has a pragmatic ring to it: there is no ultimate argument for the adoption of the realist framework. The guiding thought here is that fundamental ontic questions are not dealt with in the same way in which questions about the reality of ordinary entities (be they stones or electrons) are dealt with—the ontic framework must already be in place before questions about the reality of specific entities are raised. The second part (sections 4 and 5) will articulate reasons for avoiding instrumentalism. Most space is given in offering reasons to refrain from adopting P. Kyle Stanford’s (2006) neo-instrumentalism—a very sophisticated version of instrumentalism that seems to work within the realist framework and promises empiricists a way to avoid scientific realism. Scientific realism is alive and well because of Ti(a)na: there is (almost) no alternative. However, in section 6, it will be argued that there is room for rapprochement between contextualist instrumentalism and scientific realism. The paper is accompanied by an appendix in which Reichenbach’s argument for scientific realism is presented and discussed. (shrink)
In this paper I develop five worries concerning Cartwright’s realism about entities and capacities. The first is that while she was right to insist on the ontic commitment that flows from causal explanation, she was wrong to tie these commitments solely to the entities that do the causal explaining. This move obscured the nature of causal explanation and its connection to laws. The second worry is that when she turned her attention to causal inference, by insisting on the motto of (...) ‘the most likely cause’, she underplayed her powerful argument for realism. For she focused her attention on an extrinsic feature of causal inference (or, indeed, of any ampliative inference), that is the demand of high probability, leaving behind the intrinsic qualities that causal explanation should have in order to provide the required understanding. The third worry is that her objections to Inference to the Best Explanation were unnecessarily tied to her objections about the falsity of fundamental laws. The fourth worry is that though her argument for positing capacities and being realist about them was supposed to take strength from its parallel with Sellars’s powerful argument for the indispensable explanatory role of positing unobservable entities, there are important disanalogies between the two arguments which cast doubt on the indispensability of capacities. The final (fifth) worry is that laws—perhaps brute regularities—might well have to come back from the front door, since they are still the most plausible candidates for explaining why objects have the capacities to do what they can do. (shrink)
Based on archival material from the Carnap and FeiglArchives, this paper re-examines Carnap's approach tothe issue of scientific realism in the 1950s and theearly 1960s. It focuses on Carnap's re-invention ofthe Ramsey-sentence approach to scientific theoriesand argues that Carnap wanted to entertain a genuineneutral stance in the realism-instrumentalism debate.Following Grover Maxwell, it claims that Carnap'sposition may be best understood as a version of`structural realism'. However, thus understood,Carnap's position faces the challenge that Newmanraised against Russell's structuralism: the claim thatthe knowledge of (...) the unobservable is limited to itspurely structural characteristics is eitheruninformative or unsustainable. (shrink)