The constructive realist account of science and its application to Ilya Prigogine's conception of laws of nature

Foundations of Science 14 (3):239-248 (2009)
Abstract
Sciences are often regarded as providing the best, or, ideally, exact, knowledge of the world, especially in providing laws of nature. Ilya Prigogine, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for his theory of non-equilibrium chemical processes—this being also an important attempt to bridge the gap between exact and non-exact sciences [mentioned in the Presentation Speech by Professor Stig Claesson (nobelprize.org, The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1977)]—has had this ideal in mind when trying to formulate a new kind of science. Philosophers of science distinguish theory and reality, examining relations between these two. Nancy Cartwright’s distinction of fundamental and phenomenological laws, Rein Vihalemm’s conception of the peculiarity of the exact sciences, and Ronald Giere’s account of models in science and science as a set of models are deployed in this article to criticise the common view of science and analyse Ilya Prigogine’s view in particular. We will conclude that on a more abstract, philosophical level, Prigogine’s understanding of science doesn’t differ from the common understanding.
Keywords Exact sciences  Ilya Prigogine  Laws of nature  Models in science
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