David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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This is a defense of the doctrine of scientific realism (SR). SR is defined through the following two claims: (i) Most essential unobservables posited by the well-established current scientific theories exist independently of our minds. (ii) We know our well-established scientific theories to be approximately true. I first offer positive argumentation for SR. I begin with the so-called 'success arguments' for SR: 1) scientific theories most of the times entail successful predictions; 2) science is methodologically successful in generating empirically successful theories. SR explains these facts via inference to the best explanation (IBE). I combine Hacking's experimental argument for entity realism with Salmon's common-cause principle. I take entity realism to be foundational to SR: one may believe in the existence of some theoretical entities without believing in any particular theory in which these are embedded. Its motivation comes from experimental practice, where the manipulation of these entities often relies on incompatible theoretical accounts. The underdetermination (UD) topic is thereafter discussed. Several attempts to distinguish between an observable and an unobservable realm are critically discussed, as well as the possibility that for any given theory, there are empirically equivalents generated by means of algorithms. I present extensive argumentation to the effect that such algorithmic rivals are not to be taken seriously. Social constructivism (SC) is being critically treated. I proceed by distinguishing between a metaphysical, a semantic, and an epistemic variant of SC. I conclude that only a moderate metaphysical constructivism can stand on its own feet. Its claim is merely that some facts about the world are socially constructed. I finish with a plea for a selective SR, able to do justice to the presence of both instrumentalism and modest constructivism in scientific practice.
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