Scientific realism and the criteria for theory-choice

Erkenntnis 38 (2):203 - 222 (1993)
The central terms of certain theories which were valued highly in the past, such as the phlogiston theory, are now believed by realists not to refer. Laudan and others have claimed that, in the light of the existence of such theories, scientific realism is untenable. This paper argues in response that realism is consistent with — and indeed is able to explain — such theories' having been highly valued and yet not being close to the truth. It follows that the set of highly-valued past theories cited by Laudan, presumed to militate against realism, is in fact innocuous to the doctrine. The argument hinges largely on identifying the grounds on which theory-adoption is actually performed.
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