Can a historian of science be a scientific realist?

In this paper I address some of the problems that the historical development of science poses for a realist and discuss whether a realist construal of scientific activity is conducive to historiographical practice. First, I discuss, by means of historical examples, Ian Hacking's defense of entity realism. Second, I try to show, drawing on Kuhn's recent work on incommensurability, that the realism problem is relevant to historiography and that a realist position entails a particular historiographical strategy, which faces problems. Finally, I suggest that for historiographical purposes an agnostic attitude with respect to scientific theories and unobservable entities is the most appropriate
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DOI 10.1086/392934
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