David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Philosophy of Science 46 (1):1-34 (1979)
Sometimes a theory is interpreted realistically--i.e., as literally true--whereas sometimes a theory is interpreted instrumentalistically--i.e., as merely a convenient device for summarizing, systematizing, deducing, etc., a given body of observable facts. This paper is part of a program aimed at determining the basis on which scientists decide on which of these interpretations to accept a theory. I proceed by examining one case: the nineteenth-century debates about the existence of atoms. I argue that there was a gradual transition from an instrumentalist to a realistic acceptance of the atomic theory, because of gradual increases in its predictive power, the "testedness" of its hypotheses, the "determinateness" of its quantities, and because of resolutions of doubts about the acceptability of its basic explanatory concepts
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Citations of this work BETA
Stathis Psillos (2011). Moving Molecules Above the Scientific Horizon: On Perrin's Case for Realism. [REVIEW] Journal for General Philosophy of Science 42 (2):339-363.
Steven Savitt (1993). Selective Scientific Realism, Constructive Empiricism, and the Unification of Theories. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 18 (1):154-165.
Bas C. van Fraassen (2009). The Perils of Perrin, in the Hands of Philosophers. Philosophical Studies 143 (1):5 - 24.
Richard Montgomery (1990). The Reductionist Ideal in Cognitive Psychology. Synthese 85 (November):279-314.
Eduardo Castro (2013). Defending the Indispensability Argument: Atoms, Infinity and the Continuum. Journal for General Philosophy of Science 44 (1):41-61.
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