It is easier to define scientific realism than it is to identify its role as a distinctly philosophical doctrine. Scientific realists hold that the characteristic product of successful scientific research is knowledge of largely theory-independent phenomena and that such knowledge is possible (indeed actual) even in those cases in which the relevant phenomena are not, in any non-question-begging sense, observable. According to scientific realists, for example, if you obtain a good contemporary chemistry textbook you will have good reason to believe (...) (because the scientists whose work the book reports had good scientific evidence for) the (approximate) truth of the claims it contains about the existence and properties of atoms, molecules, sub-atomic particles, energy levels, reaction mechanisms, etc. Moreover, you have good reason to think that such phenomena have the properties attributed to them in the textbook independently of our theoretical conceptions in chemistry. Scientific realism is thus the common sense (or common science) conception that, subject to a recognition that scientific methods are fallible and that most scientific knowledge is approximate, we are justified in accepting the most secure findings of scientists "at face value." 1. Introduction 2. The Empiricist Challenge: Knowledge Empiricism and the Underdetermination Argument 3. Realist Responses to the Empiricist Challenge: The Senses Extended and Explanations Rehabilitated 4. The Neo-Kantian Challenge: First Version 5. The Neo-Kantian Challenge: Second Version 6. The "Post-modern" Challenge Bibliography Other Internet Resources Related Entries. (shrink)
Jean-Jacques Rousseau is renowned for defending the pity of the state of nature over and against the vanity, cruelty, and inequalities of civil society. In the standard reading, it is this sentiment of pity, activated by our imagination, that allows for the cultivation of compassion. However, a closer look at the "pathologies of pity" in Rousseau's system challenges this idea that pity is a pleasurable sentiment that arises from a recognition of the identity of our natures and leads ultimately to (...) communion with our fellow-creatures. Instead, pity rests inexorably on a sense of difference, is fueled by an aversion to suffering, and is more likely to yield a world of "reluctant spectators" than one of simple souls eagerly rushing to the aid of others. Because compassion is unlikely to encourage the moral equality and willful agency requisite to democracy, trying to make compassion central to democratic theory may very well prove counterproductive. (shrink)
A realistic and dialectical conception of the epistemology of science is advanced according to which the acquisition of instrumental knowledge is parasitic upon the acquisition, by successive approximation, of theoretical knowledge. This conception is extended to provide an epistemological characterization of reference and of natural kinds, and it is integrated into recent naturalistic treatments of knowledge. Implications for several current issues in the philosophy of science are explored.
This paper examines commonly offered arguments to show that human behavior is not deterministic because it is not predictable. These arguments turn out to rest on the assumption that deterministic systems must be governed by deterministic laws, and that these give rise to predictability "in principle" of determined events. A positive account of determinism is advanced and it is shown that neither of these assumptions is true. The relation between determinism, laws, and prediction in practice is discussed as a question (...) in scientific epistemology. (shrink)