Scientific Realism and Ontological Relativity

The Monist 94 (2):157-180 (2011)
Abstract
Scientific realism has three dimensions: a metaphysical commitment to the existence of a mind-independent world; a semantic commitment to a literal interpretation of scientific claims; and an epistemological commitment to scientific knowledge of both observable and unobservable entities. The semantic dimension is uncontroversial, and the epistemological dimension, though contested, is well articulated in a number of ways. The metaphysical dimension, however, is not even well articulated. In this paper, I elaborate a plausible understanding of mind independence for the realist – plausible in conceding the force of sceptical arguments to the effect that there is no one correct way to carve nature at its joints, but realist in proposing an objective basis for carving nonetheless. Walking this line between implausible realism and full-blown constructivism leads down the path of three forms of relativism or pluralism: one concerning the ways in which scientists “package” properties into entities; another concerning the precise metaphysical natures of these entities; and another concerning the context relativity of their behaviour
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