The aim of this paper is to revisit the phlogiston theory to see what can be learned from it about the relationship between scientificrealism, approximate truth and successful reference. It is argued that phlogiston theory did to some extent correctly describe the causal or nomological structure of the world, and that some of its central terms can be regarded as referring. However, it is concluded that the issue of whether or not theoretical terms successfully refer is not (...) the key to formulating the appropriate form of scientificrealism in response to arguments from theory change, and that the case of phlogiston theory is shown to be readily accommodated by ontic structural realism. (shrink)
Stanford, in Exceeding Our Grasp , presents a powerful version of the pessimistic meta-induction. He claims that theories typically have empirically inequivalent but nonetheless well-confirmed, serious alternatives which are unconceived. This claim should be uncontroversial. But it alone is no threat to scientificrealism. The threat comes from Stanford’s further crucial claim, supported by historical examples, that a theory’s unconceived alternatives are “radically distinct” from it; there is no “continuity”. A standard realist reply to the meta-induction is that (...) past failures do not imply present ones because present theories are more successful than past ones. I have preferred to emphasize that present methodology is better than past ones. Stanford’s response to the standard reply is surprisingly brief and inadequate. He defends the inference from the uncontroversial claim but not that from the crucial one. He does not show that past discontinuity implies present discontinuity. Realism survives. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that aim-oriented empiricism provides decisive grounds for accepting scientificrealism and rejecting instrumentalism. But it goes further than this. Aim-oriented empiricism implies that physicalism is a central part of current (conjectural) scientific knowledge. Furthermore, we can and need, I argue, to interpret fundamental physical theories as attributing necessitating physical properties to fundamental physical entities.
This paper investigates the nature of scientificrealism. I begin by considering the anomalous fact that Bas van Fraassen’s account of scientificrealism is strikingly similar to Arthur Fine’s account of scientific non-realism. To resolve this puzzle, I demonstrate how the two theorists understand the nature of truth and its connection to ontology, and how that informs their conception of the realism debate. I then argue that the debate is much better captured by (...) the theory of truthmaking, and not by any particular theory of truth. To be a scientific realist is to adopt a realism-relevant account of what makes true the scientific theories one accepts. The truthmaking approach restores realism’s metaphysical core—distancing itself from linguistic conceptions of the debate—and thereby offers a better characterization of what is at stake in the question of scientificrealism. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to articulate, discuss in detail and criticise Reichenbach's sophisticated and complex argument for scientificrealism. Reichenbach's argument has two parts. The first part aims to show how there can be reasonable belief in unobservable entities, though the truth of claims about them is not given directly in experience. The second part aims to extent the argument of the first part to the case of realism about the external world, conceived of as (...) a world of independently existing entities distinct from sensations. It is argued that the success of the first part depends on a change of perspective, where unobservable entities are viewed as projective complexes vis-à-vis their observable symptoms, or effects. It is also argued that there is an essential difference between the two parts of the argument, which Reichenbach comes (somewhat reluctantly) to accept. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that the ultimate argument for ScientificRealism, also known as the No-Miracles Argument (NMA), ultimately fails as an abductive defence of Epistemic ScientificRealism (ESR), where (ESR) is the thesis that successful theories of mature sciences are approximately true. The NMA is supposed to be an Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE) that purports to explain the success of science. However, the explanation offered as the best explanation for success, namely (ESR), (...) fails to yield independently testable predictions that alternative explanations for success do not yield. If this is correct, then there seems to be no good reason to prefer (ESR) over alternative explanations for success. (shrink)
According to the “no-miracles argument” (NMA), truth is the best explanation of the predictive-instrumental success of scientific theories. A standard objection against NMA is that it is viciously circular. In ScientificRealism: How Science Tracks Truth Stathis Psillos has claimed that the circularity objection can be met when NMA is supplemented with a reliabilist approach to justification. I will try to show, however, that scientific realists cannot take much comfort from this policy: if reliabilism makes no (...) qualifications about the domain where inference to the best explanation is reliable, scientific realists flagrantly beg the question. A qualified version of reliabilism, on the other side, does not entitle us to infer the realist conclusion. I conclude, then, that Psillos’s proposal does not make any significant progress for scientificrealism. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that Poincaré’s acceptance of the atom does not indicate a shift from instrumentalism to scientificrealism. I examine the implications of Poincaré’s acceptance of the existence of the atom for our current understanding of his philosophy of science. Specifically, how can we understand Poincaré’s acceptance of the atom in structural realist terms? I examine his 1912 paper carefully and suggest that it does not entail scientificrealism in the sense of acceptance (...) of the fundamental existence of atoms but rather, argues against fundamental entities. I argue that Poincaré’s paper motivates a non-fundamentalist view about the world, and that this is compatible with his structuralism. (shrink)
At stake in the classical realism-debate is the clash between realist and anti-realist positions. In recent years, the classical form of this debate has undergone a double transformation. On the one hand, the champions of realism began to pay more attention to the interpretative dimensions of scientific research. On the other hand, anti-realists of various sorts realized that the rejection of the hypostatization of a “reality out there” does not imply the denial of working out a philosophically (...) adequate concept of reality. Against the background of this double transformation, new arguments in the realism-debate emerged. The present Introduction is an attempt at systematizing these arguments within the spectrum of doctrines between the poles of scientificrealism (exposed and defended by Howard Sankey) and hermeneutic realism (advocated by Dimitri Ginev). The authors try also to demonstrate that after the classical debates the issue of scientism has to be addressed in new ways. (shrink)
Scientificrealism is the position that the aim of science is to advance on truth and increase knowledge about observable and unobservable aspects of the mind-independent world which we inhabit. This book articulates and defends that position. In presenting a clear formulation and addressing the major arguments for scientificrealism Sankey appeals to philosophers beyond the community of, typically Anglo-American, analytic philosophers of science to appreciate and understand the doctrine. The book emphasizes the epistemological aspects of (...)scientificrealism and contains an original solution to the problem of induction that rests on an appeal to the principle of uniformity of nature. (shrink)
Pragmatic ScientificRealism (PSR) urges us to take up the realist aim or the goal of truth although we have good reason to think that the goal can neither be attained nor approximated. While Newton-Smith thinks that pursuing what we know we cannot achieve is clearly irrational, Rescher disagrees and contends that pursuing an unreachable goal can be rational on pragmatic grounds—if in pursuing the unreachable goal one can get indirect benefits. I have blocked this attempt at providing (...) a pragmatic justification for the realist aim of PSR on precisely the same pragmatic grounds—since there is a competing alternative to PSR, and the alternative can provide whatever indirect benefits PSR can offer while being less risky than it is, prudential reasoning favours the alternative to PSR. This undermines the pragmatic case for the realist aim of science since the instrumentalist alternative does not aim at the truth. (shrink)
Confirmational holism is central to a traditional formulation of the indispensability argument for mathematical realism (IA). I argue that recent strategies for defending scientificrealism are incompatible with confirmational holism. Thus a traditional formulation of IA is incompatible with recent strategies for defending scientificrealism. As a consequence a traditional formulation of IA will only have limited appeal.
This paper seeks to show that the turn toward local scientific practices in the philosophy of science is not a turn away from transcendental investigations. On the contrary, a pragmatist approach can very well be (re)connected with Kantian transcendental examination of the necessary conditions for the possibility of scientific representation and cognition, insofar as the a priori conditions that transcendental philosophy of science examines are understood as historically relative and thus potentially changing. The issue of scientific (...) class='Hi'>realism will be considered from this perspective, with special emphasis on Thomas Kuhn's conception of paradigms as frameworks making truth-valued scientific statements possible and on Charles S. Peirce's realism about "real generals". (shrink)
This paper discusses an argument for scientificrealism put forward by Anthony Quinton in The Nature of Things. The argument – here called the controlled continuity argument – seems to have received no attention in the literature, apparently because it may easily be mistaken for a better-known argument, Grover Maxwell’s “argument from the continuum”. It is argued here that, in point of fact, the two are quite distinct and that Quinton’s argument has several advantages over Maxwell’s. The controlled (...) continuity argument is also compared to Ian Hacking’s “argument from coincidence”. It is pointed out that both arguments are to a large extent independent from considerations about high-level scientific theories, and that both are abductive arguments at the core. But these similarities do not dilute an important difference related to the fact that Quinton’s argument cleverly seeks to anchor belief in unobservable entities in realism about ordinary objects, which is a position shared by most contemporary scientific anti-realists. (shrink)
In this paper, the elaboration of the concept of practical realist philosophy of science which began in the author's previous papers is continued. It is argued that practical realism is opposed to standard scientificrealism, on the one hand, and antirealism, on the other. Standard scientificrealism is challengeable due to its abstract character, as being isolated from practice. It is based on a metaphysical-ontological presupposition which raises the problem of the God's Eye point of (...) view (as it was called by Hilary Putnam). Joseph Rouse's conception of science as practice, Sami Pihlström's pragmatic realism, and even Ilkka Niiniluoto's critical scientificrealism are interpreted as practical realist conceptions. Pihlström suggests that the contemporary scientific realist should be prepared to accept the pragmatically naturalized Kantian transcendental perspective on realism. It is argued, however, that this realistically naturalized Kantianism can be nothing more than practical realism, as originated by Karl Marx. (shrink)
In a series of influential articles, the anti-realist Arthur Fine has repeatedly charged that a certain very popular argument for scientificrealism, that only realism can explain the instrumental success of science, begs the question. I argue that on no plausible reading ofthe fallacy does the realist argument beg the question. In fact, Fine is himself guilty of what DeMorgan called the "opponent fallacy.".
Philip Kitcher’s account of scientificrealism in 'The Advancement of Science' (AS) differs from his account in 'Science, Truth and Democracy' (STD). We demonstrate that (1) contrary to appearance, Kitcher in AS proposes a so-called Kantian realism that is accompanied not by a correspondence theory, but by a hybrid conception of truth. (2) Also, we point out that Kitcher does not pertain to the “promiscuous realism” proposed in STD stringently, but falls back on his Kantian (...) class='Hi'>realism of AS at points. Here, we question Kitcher’s claim that his promiscuous-realist conception stems initially from commonsensical be-liefs. (shrink)
This paper is concerned with connections between scientific and metaphysical realism. It is not difficult to show that scientificrealism, as expounded by Psillos (1999) clearly qualifies as a kind of metaphysical realism in the sense of Putnam (1980). The statement of scientificrealism therefore must not only deal with underdetermination and the dynamics of scientific theories but also answer the semantic challenges to metaphysical realism. As will be argued, the common (...) core of these challenges is the proposition that a (metaphysical) realist semantics leads to semantic agnosticism in the sense that we are unable to grasp the proper meanings and referents of our linguistic expressions. Having established this, I will focus more specifically on the question of whether scientificrealism—in its state-of-the-art account—has the resources to make reference to scientific concepts intelligible such that the semantic challenges can be answered. (shrink)
In this three-part paper, my concern is to expound and defend a conception of science, close to Einstein's, which I call aim-oriented empiricism. I argue that aim-oriented empiricsim has the following virtues. (i) It solve the problem of induction; (ii) it provides decisive reasons for rejecting van Fraassen's brilliantly defended but intuitively implausible constructive empiricism; (iii) it solves the problem of verisimilitude, the problem of explicating what it can mean to speak of scientific progress given that science advances from (...) one false theory to another; (iv) it enables us to hold that appropriate scientific theories, even though false, can nevertheless legitimately be interpreted realistically, as providing us with genuine , even if only approximate, knowledge of unobservable physical entities; (v) it provies science with a rational, even though fallible and non-mechanical, method for the discovery of fundamental new theories in physics. In the third part of the paper I show that Einstein made essential use of aim-oriented empiricism in scientific practice in developing special and general relativity. I conclude by considering to what extent Einstein came explicitly to advocate aim-oriented empiricism in his later years. (shrink)
This paper aims to cast light on the reasons that explain the shift of opinion—from scepticism to realism—concerning the reality of atoms and molecules in the beginning of the twentieth century, in light of Jean Perrin’s theoretical and experimental work on the Brownian movement. The story told has some rather interesting repercussions for the rationality of accepting the reality of explanatory posits. Section 2 presents the key philosophical debate concerning the role and status of explanatory hypotheses c. 1900, focusing (...) on the work of Duhem, Stallo, Ostwald, Poincaré and Boltzmann. Section 3 examines in detail Perrin’s theoretical account of the molecular origins of Brownian motion, reconstructs the structure and explains the strength of Perrin’s argument for the reality of molecules. Section 4 draws three important lessons for the current debate over scientificrealism. (shrink)
In this paper, I consider Kitcher's (1993) account of reference for the expressions of past science. Kitcher's case study is of Joseph Priestley and his expression `dephlogisticated air'. There is a strong intuitive case that `dephlogisticated air' referred to oxygen, but it was underpinned by very mistaken phlogiston theory, so concluding either that dephlogisticated air referred straightforwardly or that it failed to refer both have unpalatable consequences. Kitcher argues that the reference of such terms is best considered relative to each (...) token--some tokens refer, and others do not. His account thus relies crucially on how this distinction between tokens can be made good--a puzzle I call the discrimination problem. I argue that the discrimination problem cannot be solved. On any reading of Kitcher's defence of the distinction, the grounds provided are either insufficient or illegitimate. On the first reading, Kitcher violates the principle of humanity by making Priestley's referential success a matter of the mental contents of modern speakers. The second reading sidesteps the problem of beliefs by appealing to mind-independent facts, but I argue that these are insufficient to achieve reference because of the indeterminacy introduced by the qua problem. On the third and final reading, Priestley's success is given by what he would say in counterfactual circumstances. I argue that even if there are facts about what Priestley would say, and there is reason for doubt, there is no motivation to think that such facts determine how Priestley referred in the actual world. (shrink)
In The Inference That Makes Science, Ernan McMullin recounts the clear historical progress he saw toward a vision of the sciences as conclusions reached rationally on the basis of empirical evidence. Distinctive of this vision was his view of science as driven by a specific form of inference, retroduction. To understand this properly, we need to disentangle the description of retroductive inference from the claims made on its behalf. To end I will suggest that the real rival to McMullin's vision (...) of science is not the methodologies he criticizes so successfully but a more radical empiricist alternative in epistemology. (shrink)
ScientificRealism is the optimistic view that modern science is on the right track: that the world really is the way our best scientific theories describe it to be. In his book, Stathis Psillos gives us a detailed and comprehensive study, which restores the intuitive plausibility of scientificrealism. We see that throughout the twentieth century, scientificrealism has been challenged by philosophical positions from all angles: from reductive empiricism, to instrumentalism and modern (...) skeptical empiricism. ScientificRealism explains that the history of science does not undermine the notion of scientificrealism, and instead makes it reasonable to accept scientific as the best philosophical account of science, its empirical success, its progress and its practice. Anyone wishing to gain a deeper understanding of the state of modern science and why scientificrealism is plausible, should read this book. (shrink)
It is usually taken for granted that orthodox quantum theory poses a serious problem for scientificrealism, in that the theory is empirically extraordinarily successful, and yet has instrumentalism built into it. This paper stand this view on its head. I argue that orthodox quantum theory suffers from a number of serious (if not always noticed) defects precisely because of its inbuilt instrumentalism. This defective character of orthdoox quantum theory thus undermines instrumentalism, and supports scientificrealism. (...) I go on to consider whether there is here the basis of a general argument against instrumentalism. (shrink)
Scientificrealism is the view that our best scientific theories give approximately true descriptions of both observable and unobservable aspects of a mind-independent world. Debates between realists and their critics are at the very heart of the philosophy of science. Anjan Chakravartty traces the contemporary evolution of realism by examining the most promising recent strategies adopted by its proponents in response to the forceful challenges of antirealist sceptics, resulting in a positive proposal for scientific (...) class='Hi'>realism today. He examines the core principles of the realist position, and sheds light on topics including the varieties of metaphysical commitment required, and the nature of the conflict between realism and its empiricist rivals. By illuminating the connections between realist interpretations of scientific knowledge and the metaphysical foundations supporting them, his book offers a compelling vision of how realism can provide an internally consistent and coherent account of scientific knowledge. (shrink)
In the paper I explore the relations between a relatively new and quickly expanding branch of artificial intelligence –- the automated discovery systems –- and some new views advanced in the old debate over scientificrealism. I focus my attention on one such system, GELL-MANN, designed in 1990 at Wichita State University. The program's task was to analyze elementary particle data available in 1964 and formulate an hypothesis (or hypotheses) about a `hidden', more simple structure of matter, or (...) to put it in contemporary terms –- the discovery of quarks. The central thesis of my paper is that systems like GELL-MANN not only discover (or rediscover) the hidden structure of matter, but also provide independent strong evidence in favor of scientificrealism about entities involved in that structure. I make an attempt to show how an argument for scientificrealism about sub-microscopic entities can be constructed that would parallel Ian Hacking's `argument from coincidence' presented with respect to microscopic objects in his famous book Representing and Intervening. (shrink)
Leplin attempts to reinstate the common sense idea that theoretical knowledge is achievable, indeed that its achievement is part of the means to progress in empirical knowledge. He sketches the genesis of the skeptical position, then introduces his argument for Minimalist ScientificRealism -- the requirement that novel predicitons be explained, and the claim that only realism about scientific theories can explain the importance of novel prediction.
This book comes to the rescue of scientificrealism, showing that reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated. Philosophical realism holds that the aim of a particular discourse is to make true statements about its subject matter. Ilkka Niiniluoto surveys different kinds of realism in various areas of philosophy and then sets out his own critical realist philosophy of science.
According to functionalism, mental state types consist solely in relations to inputs, outputs, and other mental states. I argue that two central claims of a prominent and plausible type of scientificrealism conflict with the functionalist position. These claims are that natural kinds in a mature science are not reducible to natural kinds in any other, and that all dispositional features of natural kinds can be explained at the type-level. These claims, when applied to psychology, have the consequence (...) that at least some mental state types consist not merely in relations to inputs, outputs, and other mental states, but also in nonrelational properties that play a role in explaining functional relations. Consequently, a scientific realist of the sort I describe must reject functionalism. (shrink)
This book offers a superbly clear analysis of the standard arguments for and against scientificrealism. In surveying claims on both sides of the debate, Kukla organizes them in ways that expose unnoticed connections. He identifies broad patterns of error, reconciles seemingly incompatible positions, and discovers unoccupied positions with the potential to influence further debate. Kukla's overall assessment is that neither the realists nor the antirealists may claim a decisive victory.
Two arguments are discussed which have been advanced in support of eliminative materialism: the argument from reductionism and the argument from functionalism. It is contended that neither of these arguments is effective if "non-scientificrealism" is adopted with regard to commonsense propositional attitude psychology and its embedded notions. "Non-scientificrealism," the position that commonsense propositional attitude psychology is an independently legitimate descriptive/explanatory framework, neither in competition with science nor vulnerable to being shown false by science, is (...) defended. (shrink)
Machine generated contents note: I. METAPHYSICS -- 1. How Do Realism, Materialism, and Dialectics Fare in Contemporary Science? (1973) -- 2. New Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous (1954) -- 3. Energy: Between Physics and Metaphysics (2000) -- 4. The Revival of Causality (1982) -- 5. Emergence and the Mind (1977) -- 6 SCIENTIFICREALISM -- 6. The Status of Concepts (1981) -- 7. Popper's Unworldly World 3 (1981) --II. METHODOLOGY AND PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE -- 8. (...) On Method in the Philosophy of Science (1973) -- 9. Induction in Science (1963) -- 10. The GST Challenge to the Classical Philosophies of Science (1977) -- 11. The Power and Limits of Reduction (1991) -- 12. Thinking in Metaphors (1999) --III. PHILOSOPHY OF MATHEMATICS -- 13. Moderate Mathematical Fictionism (1997) -- 14. The Gap between Mathematics and Reality (1994) -- 15. Two Faces and Three Masks of Probability (1988) --IV. PHILOSOPHY OF PHYSICS -- 16. Physical Relativity and Philosophy (1979) -- 17. Hidden Variables, Separability, and Realism (1995) -- 18. Schrodinger's Cat Is Dead (1999) --V. PHILOSOPHY OF PSYCHOLOGY -- 19. From Mindless Neuroscience and Brainless Psychology to Neuropsychology (1985) -- 20. Explaining Creativity (1993) -- VI. PHILOSOPHY OF SOCIAL SCIENCE -- 21. Analytic Philosophy of Society and Social Science: -- The Systemic Approach as an Alternative to Holism and Individualism (1988) -- 22. Rational Choice Theory: A Critical Look at Its Foundations (1995) -- 23. Realism and Antirealism in Social Science (1993) --VII. PHILOSOPHY OF TECHNOLOGY -- 24. The Nature of Applied Science and Technology (1988) -- 25. The Technology-Science-Philosophy Triangle in Its Social Context (1999) -- 26. The Technologies in Philosophy (1999) --VIII. MORAL PHILOSOPHY -- 27. A New Look at Moral Realism (1993) -- 28. Rights Imply Duties (1999) --IX. SOCIAL AND POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY -- 29. Morality Is the Basis of Legal and Political Legitimacy (1992) -- 30. Technoholodemocracy: An Alternative to -- Capitalism and Socialism (1994) -- Bibliography -- Index of Names -- Index of Subjects. (shrink)
This book is a sustained defense of the compatibility of the presence of idealizations in the sciences and scientificrealism. So, the book is essentially a detailed response to the infamous arguments raised by Nancy Cartwright to the effect that idealization and scientificrealism are incompatible.
I defend a realist commitment to the truth of our most empirically successful current scientific theories—on the ground that it provides the best explanation of their success and the success of their falsified predecessors. I argue that this Best Current Theory Realism (BCTR) is superior to preservative realism (PR) and the structural realism (SR). I show that PR and SR rest on the implausible assumption that the success of outdated theories requires the realist to hold that (...) these theories possessed truthful components. PR is undone by the fact that past theories succeeded even though their ontological claims about unobservables are false. SR backpeddles to argue that the realist is only committed to the truth about the structure of relations implied by the outdated theory, in order to explain its success. I argue that the structural component of theories is too bare-bones thin to explain the predictive/explanatory success of outdated theories. I conclude that BCTR can meet these objections to PR and SR, and also overcome the pessimistic meta-induction. (shrink)
Aristotele. Science as a systematic explanation through causes.--Newton, I. Rules and reflections on scientific reasoning.--Carnap, R. Empiricism, semantics, and ontology.--Hempel, C. On the logic of explanation.--Nagel, E. The realist view of theories.--Quine, W. V. On the role of logic in explanation.--Harris, E. E. Method and explanation in metaphysics.--Einstein, A. Remarks on Bertrand Russell's theory of knowledge.--Sellars, W. The language of theories.--MacKinnon, E. Atomic physics and reality.--Bunge, M. Physics and reality.--Heelan, P. A. Quantum mechanics and objectivity.--Bibliographical essay (p. 285-301).
(i) Scientificrealism is primarily a metaphysical doctrine about the existence and nature of the unobservables of science. (ii) There are good explanationist arguments for realism, most famously that from the success of science, provided abduction is allowed. Abduction seems to be on an equal footing, at least, with other ampliative methods of inference. (iii) We have no reason to believe a doctrine of empirical equivalence that would sustain the underdetermination argument against realism. (iv) The key (...) to defending realism from the pessimistic meta-induction is that we have greatly improved our capacity to understand the unobservable world over recent centuries. (shrink)
It is widely believed that many of the competing accounts of scientific explanation have ramifications which are relevant to the scientificrealism debate. I claim that the two issues are orthogonal. For definiteness, I consider Cartwright's argument that causal explanations secure belief in theoretical entities. In Section I, van Fraassen's anti-realism is reviewed; I argue that this anti-realism is, prima facie, consistent with a causal account of explanation. Section II reviews Cartwright's arguments. In Section III, (...) it is argued that causal explanations do not license the sort of inferences to theoretical entities that would embarass the anti-realist. Section IV examines the epistemic commitments involved in accepting a causal explanation. Section V presents my conclusions: contra Cartwright, the anti-realist may incorporate a causal account of explanation into his vision of science in an entirely natural way. (shrink)
This paper offers an intellectual history of the scientificrealism debate during the twentieth century. The telling of the tale will explain the philosophical significance and the prospects of the scientificrealism debate, through the major turns it went through. The emphasis will be on the relations between empiricism and scientificrealism and on the swing from metaphysics-hostile to metaphysics-friendly versions of realism.
This paper develops a stronger version of ‘inference-to-the-best explanation’ scientificrealism. I argue against three standard assumptions of current realists: (1) realism is confirmed if it provides the best explanation of theories’ predictive success; (2) the realist claim that successful theories are always approximately true provides the best explanation of their success; and (3) realists are committed to giving the same sort of truth-based explanation of superseded theories’ success that they give to explain our best current theories’ (...) success. On the positive side, I argue that (1) the confirmation of realism requires explaining theories’ explanatory success, not just their predictive success; (2) in turn this task requires a richer realist model of explanation that brings into the explanans both (a) successful theories’ epistemic virtues (e.g., unification and simplicity) and (b) the standards governing these virtues, as well as truth; (3) this richer realist model is further confirmed because it can better explain the success of theories in gaining wide acceptance among scientists; and (4) the model is further supported because it is superior to ‘preservative realism’ in providing a plausible rebuttal of the pessimistic meta-induction from the many past successful-but-false theories to the like- lihood that our best current theories are likewise false. (shrink)
The paper considers the two main challenges to scientificrealism, stemming from confirmation holism and the underdetermination thesis as well as from semantic holism and the incommensurability thesis. Against the first challenge, it is argued that there are other criteria besides agreement with experience that enable a rational evaluation of competing theories. Against the second challenge, it is argued that at most a thesis of local incommensurability can be defended that is compatible with a minimal version of (...) class='Hi'>scientificrealism, namely conjectural realism. However, in order to establish a fully-fledged scientificrealism, one has to refute the local incommensurability thesis as well, showing how a comparison is possible on the level of the proper concepts of the theories in question. The paper examines the prospects for such a comparison, distinguishing three cases. (shrink)
Against the well-known objection that in the history of science there are many theories that are successful but false, Psillos offers a three-pronged defense of scientificrealism as the best explanation for the success of science. Focusing on these, I criticize Psillos’ defense, arguing that each prong is weakened when we recognize that according to realist rebuttals of the underdetermination argument and versions of empiricism, realists are committed to accounting for the explanatory success of theories, not their mere (...) empirical adequacy or instrumental reliability. I conclude by indicating how ‘explanationist’ realism might be recast to accommodate my arguments. (shrink)
In this survey article I try to appraise the present state of the scientificrealism debate with an eye to important but hitherto unexplored suggestions and open issues that need further work. In section 2, I shall mostly focus on the relation between scientificrealism and truth. In section 3, I shall discuss the grounds for the realists’ epistemic optimism.
The semantic view of theoriesis one according to which theoriesare construed as models of their linguisticformulations. The implications of thisview for scientificrealism have been little discussed. Contraryto the suggestion of various champions of the semantic view,it is argued that this approach does not makesupport for a plausible scientificrealism anyless problematic than it might otherwise be.Though a degree of independence of theory fromlanguage may ensure safety frompitfalls associated with logical empiricism, realism cannot be entertained (...) unless models or (abstractedand/or idealized) aspects thereof are spelled out in terms of linguistic formulations (such as mathematical equations),which can be interpreted in terms of correspondencewith the world. The putative advantage of thesemantic approach – its linguistic independence – isthus of no help to the realist. I consider recent treatmentsof the model-theoretic view (Suppe, Giere, Smith), and find that although some of these accounts harbour the promiseof realism, this promise is deceptive. (shrink)
When we think of scientificrealism, there seem to be to ways to conceive of what it is about. The first is to see it as a view about scientific theories; the second is to see it as a view about the world. Some philosophers, most typically from Australia, think that the second way is the correct way. Scientificrealism, they argue, is a metaphysical thesis: it asserts the reality of some types of entity, most (...) typically, unobservable entities. I agree that scientificrealism has a metaphysical dimension, but I have insisted that it has other dimensions too. In my (1999), I took scientificrealism to consist of three theses (or stances). (shrink)
String theory currently is the only viable candidate for a unified description of all known natural forces. This article tries to demonstrate that the fundamental structural and methodological differences that set string theory apart from other physical theories have important philosophical consequences. Focussing on implications for the realism debate in philosophy of science, it is argued that both poles of that debate face new problems in the context of string theory. On the one hand, the claim of underdetermination of (...)scientific theory by the available empirical data, which is a pivotal element of empiricism, loses much of its plausibility. On the other hand, the dissolution of any meaningful notion of an external ontological object destroys the basis for conventional versions of scientificrealism. String theory seems to suggest an intermediate position akin to Structural Realism that is based on a newly emerging principle, to be called the principle of theoretical uniqueness. (shrink)