David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Philosophy of Science 71 (3):320-338 (2004)
The no-miracles argument and the pessimistic induction are arguably the main considerations for and against scientific realism. Recently these arguments have been accused of embodying a familiar, seductive fallacy. In each case, we are tricked by a base rate fallacy, one much-discussed in the psychological literature. In this paper we consider this accusation and use it as an explanation for why the two most prominent `wholesale' arguments in the literature seem irresolvable. Framed probabilistically, we can see very clearly why realists and anti-realists have been talking past one another. We then formulate a dilemma for advocates of either argument, answer potential objections to our criticism, discuss what remains (if anything) of these two major arguments, and then speculate about a future philosophy of science freed from these two arguments. In so doing, we connect the point about base rates to the wholesale/retail distinction; we believe it hints at an answer of how to distinguish profitable from unprofitable realism debates. In short, we offer a probabilistic analysis of the feeling of ennui afflicting contemporary philosophy of science.
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Citations of this work BETA
Jacob Stegenga (2009). Robustness, Discordance, and Relevance. Philosophy of Science 76 (5):650-661.
Moti Mizrahi (2013). The Pessimistic Induction: A Bad Argument Gone Too Far. Synthese 190 (15):3209-3226.
James Ladyman (2011). Structural Realism Versus Standard Scientific Realism: The Case of Phlogiston and Dephlogisticated Air. Synthese 180 (2):87 - 101.
K. Brad Wray (2013). Success and Truth in the Realism/Anti-Realism Debate. Synthese 190 (9):1719-1729.
K. Brad Wray (2015). Pessimistic Inductions: Four Varieties. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 29 (1):61-73.
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