Reglobalizing realism by going local, or (how) should our formulations of scientific realism be informed about the sciences?

Erkenntnis 63 (2):231 - 251 (2005)
Abstract
In order to examine the fit between realism and science, one needs to address two issues: the unit of science question (realism about which parts of science?) and the contents of realism question (which realism about science?). Answering these questions is a matter of conceptual and empirical inquiry by way local case studies. Instead of the more ordinary abstract and global scientific realism, what we get is a doubly local scientific realism based on a bottom-up strategy. Representative formulations of the former kind are in terms of the truth and reality of the posits of current science, in terms of warranted belief, in terms of mind-independent unobservable entities. Using illustrations mainly from the social sciences, doubly local scientific realism denies the global applicability of such formulations and seeks to make adjustments in their elements in response to information about local units of science: It is sufficient for a realist to give the existence of an entity (and the truth of a theory) a chance, while in some areas we may be in s position to make justified claims about actual existence (and truth). Logical inquiry-independent existence is sufficient for the social and human sciences, while mind-independence will be fine for many other domains. It should not be insisted that the theoretical posits of realist science be strict unobservables in all areas: most theoretical posits of the social sciences are idealized commonsensibles, such as elements in folk psychology. Unsurprisingly, this sort of local strategy will create space for realism that is able to accommodate larger areas of science without sacrificing traditional realist intuitions.
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