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According to convergent scientific realism, empirically successful scientific theories are approximately true, with our contemporary theories being closer to the truth than their predecessors in the same domain. Like most types of scientific realism, convergent realism holds that theoretical terms of successful theories refer, the theoretical claims of preceding theories are carried over to the new theories, at least as limiting cases, and the new theories can explain the empirical success of their predecessors. In order to explain how our theories are getting closer to the truth, some have developed the notion of ‘approximate truth’ as a quantifiable measure. Karl Popper’s notion of ‘verisimilitude’, for instance, was introduced to compare theories by their true and false consequences, although this account run into many technical difficulties, as shown by Miller (1974), Tichy (1974) and others. Another way realists have explicated the notion of approximate truth is by evoking the correspondence principle that shows how a superseded theory can be taken as a limiting case of its successor. According Post’s (1971) ‘general correspondence principle’, contemporary scientific theories can explain the success of their predecessors by ‘degenerating’ into them in the respective domain in which they were empirically successful. 

Key works

Convergent realism was developed by Putnam 1982, Hardin & Rosenberg 1982 and Doppelt 2007

Convergent realism was challenged by Larry Laudan’s pessimistic meta-induction in  Laudan 1981, an argument which forced most scientific realists to endorse a type of selective realism.

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56 found
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1 — 50 / 56
  1. A Methodological Argument Against Scientific Realism.Darrell P. Rowbottom - 2019 - Synthese 198 (3):2153-2167.
    First, I identify a methodological thesis associated with scientific realism. This has different variants, but each concerns the reliability of scientific methods in connection with acquiring, or approaching, truth or approximate truth. Second, I show how this thesis bears on what scientists should do when considering new theories that significantly contradict older theories. Third, I explore how vulnerable scientific realism is to a reductio ad absurdum as a result. Finally, I consider which variants of the methodological thesis are the most (...)
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  2. Scientific Realism: What It is, the Contemporary Debate, and New Directions.Darrell Patrick Rowbottom - 2019 - Synthese 196 (2):451-484.
    First, I answer the controversial question ’What is scientific realism?’ with extensive reference to the varied accounts of the position in the literature. Second, I provide an overview of the key developments in the debate concerning scientific realism over the past decade. Third, I provide a summary of the other contributions to this special issue.
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  3. Scientific Realism and Primitive Ontology Or: The Pessimistic Induction and the Nature of the Wave Function.Valia Allori - 2018 - Lato Sensu 1 (5):69-76.
    In this paper I wish to connect the recent debate in the philosophy of quantum mechanics concerning the nature of the wave function to the historical debate in the philosophy of science regarding the tenability of scientific realism. Being realist about quantum mechanics is particularly challenging when focusing on the wave function. According to the wave function ontology approach, the wave function is a concrete physical entity. In contrast, according to an alternative viewpoint, namely the primitive ontology approach, the wave (...)
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  4. What is the Point of Reduction in Science?Karen Crowther - 2018 - Erkenntnis:1-24.
    The numerous and diverse roles of theory reduction in science have been insufficiently explored in the philosophy literature on reduction. Part of the reason for this has been a lack of attention paid to reduction2 (successional reduction)---although I here argue that this sense of reduction is closer to reduction1 (explanatory reduction) than is commonly recognised, and I use an account of reduction that is neutral between the two. This paper draws attention to the utility---and incredible versatility---of theory reduction. A non-exhaustive (...)
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  5. Larry Laudan’s Typology for Historical Methodology and the Historical and Experimental Turns in Philosophy of Science.Jutta Schickore - 2018 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 8 (1):87-107.
  6. Scientific Revolutions and the Explosion of Scientific Evidence.Ludwig Fahrbach - 2017 - Synthese 194 (12):5039-5072.
    Scientific realism, the position that successful theories are likely to be approximately true, is threatened by the pessimistic induction according to which the history of science is full of suc- cessful, but false theories. I aim to defend scientific realism against the pessimistic induction. My main thesis is that our current best theories each enjoy a very high degree of predictive success, far higher than was enjoyed by any of the refuted theories. I support this thesis by showing that both (...)
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  7. Against Selective Realism.Dana Tulodziecki - 2017 - Philosophy of Science 84 (5):996-1007.
    It has recently been suggested that realist responses to historical cases featured in pessimistic meta-inductions are not as successful as previously thought. In response, selective realists have updated the basic divide et impera strategy specifically to take such cases into account and to argue that more modern realist accounts are immune to the historical challenge. Using a case study—that of the nineteenth-century zymotic theory of disease—I argue that these updated proposals fail and that even the most sophisticated recent realist accounts (...)
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  8. Introduction: Historiography and the Philosophy of the Sciences.Robin Findlay Hendry & Ian James Kidd - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 55:1-2.
    The history of science and the philosophy of science have a long and tangled relationship. On the one hand, philosophical reflection on science can be guided, shaped, and challenged by historical scholarship—a process begun by Thomas Kuhn and continued by successive generations of ‘post-positivist’ historians and philosophers of science. On the other hand, the activity of writing the history of science raises methodological questions concerning, for instance, progress in science, realism and antirealism, and the semantics of scientific theories, questions which (...)
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  9. Realizm zreformowany. Filozofia Iana Hackinga a spór o status poznawczy wiedzy naukowej.Mateusz Kotowski - 2016 - Wrocław: Oficyna Naukowa PFF.
  10. The Methodological Problems of Theory Unification (in the context of Maxwell's fusion of optics and electrodynamics).Rinat M. Nugayev - 2016 - Philosophy of Science and Technology (Moscow) 21 (2).
    It is discerned what light can bring the recent historical reconstructions of maxwellian optics and electromagnetism unification on the following philosophical/methodological questions. I. Why should one believe that Nature is ultimately simple and that unified theories are more likely to be true? II. What does it mean to say that a theory is unified? III. Why theory unification should be an epistemic virtue? To answer the questions posed genesis and development of Maxwellian electrodynamics are elucidated. It is enunciated that the (...)
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  11. What is Theoretical Progress of Science?Juha Saatsi - 2016 - Synthese:1-21.
    The epistemic conception of scientific progress equates progress with accumulation of scientific knowledge. I argue that the epistemic conception fails to fully capture scientific progress: theoretical progress, in particular, can transcend scientific knowledge in important ways. Sometimes theoretical progress can be a matter of new theories ‘latching better onto unobservable reality’ in a way that need not be a matter of new knowledge. Recognising this further dimension of theoretical progress is particularly significant for understanding scientific realism, since realism is naturally (...)
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  12. From Zymes to Germs: Discarding the Realist/Anti-Realist Framework.Dana Tulodziecki - 2016 - In Raphael Scholl & Tilman Sauer (eds.), The Philosophy of Historical Case Studies. Springer. pp. 265--284.
    I argue that neither realist nor anti-realist accounts of theory-change can account for the transition from zymotic views of disease to germ views. The trouble with realism is its focus on stable and continuous elements that get retained in the transition from one theory to the next; the trouble with anti-realism is its focus on the radical discontinuity between theories and their successors. I show that neither of these approaches works for the transition from zymes to germs: there is neither (...)
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  13. Ontology & Methodology.Benjamin C. Jantzen, Deborah G. Mayo & Lydia Patton - 2015 - Synthese 192 (11):3413-3423.
    Philosophers of science have long been concerned with the question of what a given scientific theory tells us about the contents of the world, but relatively little attention has been paid to how we set out to build theories and to the relevance of pre-theoretical methodology on a theory’s interpretation. In the traditional view, the form and content of a mature theory can be separated from any tentative ontological assumptions that went into its development. For this reason, the target of (...)
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  14. Methodological Realism and Modal Resourcefulness: Out of the Web and Into the Mine.Lydia Patton - 2015 - Synthese 192 (11):3443-3462.
    Psillos, Kitcher, and Leplin have defended convergent scientific realism against the pessimistic meta-induction by arguing for the divide et impera strategy. I argue that DEI faces a problem more serious than the pessimistic meta-induction: the problem of accretion. When empirically successful theories and principles are combined, they may no longer make successful predictions or allow for accurate calculations, or the combination otherwise may be an empirical failure. The shift from classical mechanics to the new quantum theory does not reflect the (...)
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  15. Historical Inductions, Old and New.Juha Saatsi - 2015 - Synthese:1-15.
    I review prominent historical arguments against scientific realism to indicate how they display a systematic overshooting in the conclusions drawn from the historical evidence. The root of the overshooting can be located in some critical, undue presuppositions regarding realism. I will highlight these presuppositions in connection with both Laudan’s ‘Old induction’ and Stanford’s New induction, and then delineate a minimal realist view that does without the problematic presuppositions.
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  16. Scientific Realism.Anjan Chakravartty - 2013 - The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Debates about scientific realism are closely connected to almost everything else in the philosophy of science, for they concern the very nature of scientific knowledge. Scientific realism is a positive epistemic attitude toward the content of our best theories and models, recommending belief in both observable and unobservable aspects of the world described by the sciences. This epistemic attitude has important metaphysical and semantic dimensions, and these various commitments are contested by a number of rival epistemologies of science, known collectively (...)
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  17. How to Split a Theory: Defending Selective Realism and Convergence Without Proximity.David Harker - 2013 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (1):79-106.
    The most influential arguments for scientific realism remain centrally concerned with an inference from scientific success to the approximate truth of successful theories. Recently, however, and in response to antirealists' objections from radical discontinuity within the history of science, the arguments have been refined. Rather than target entire theories, realists narrow their commitments to only certain parts of theories. Despite an initial plausibility, the selective realist strategy faces significant challenges. In this article, I outline four prerequisites for a successful selective (...)
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  18. The Ultimate Argument Against Convergent Realism and Structural Realism: The Impasse Objection.Paul Hoyningen-Huene - 2013 - In EPSA11 Perspectives and Foundational Problems in Philosophy of Science, The European Philosophy of Science Association Proceedings 2. pp. 131-139.
  19. A Defense of the Suppositionalist View of Hypothetical Entities.Jonathon Daniel Hricko - 2013 - Dissertation,
    When scientists put forward hypotheses, they sometimes involve new kinds of entities, which we can call 'hypothetical entities.' Hypothetical entities are pervasive in the sciences, and some examples include caloric and, up until very recently, the Higgs boson. Some hypothetical entities are discovered, as was the case with the Higgs boson, while scientists conclude that others, like caloric, do not exist. Hypothetical entities pose a number of important challenges for the philosophy of science, and my goal is to develop and (...)
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  20. A Confrontation of Convergent Realism.Peter Vickers - 2013 - Philosophy of Science 80 (2):189-211.
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  21. Convergent Realism and Its Rivals.Rinat M. Nugayev - 2012 - Credo New (3):1-27.
    CONVERGENT REALISM AND ITS RIVALS (joining the realism-antirealism debates in modern Western philosophy of science). Rinat M. Nugayev, Kazan branch of Russian University of Cooperation. Abstract. Arguments pro and contra convergent realism are considered. It is argued that to meet the antirealist challenges convergent realism meta-programme hard core should be modified significantly . However well-known rivals of structural realism – entity realism (N. Cartwright and I. Hacking) and structural realism (John Worrall) – are mere revisionist versions of convergent realism based (...)
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  22. Dirac's Prediction of the Positron: A Case Study for the Current Realism Debate.Thomas Pashby - 2012 - Perspectives on Science 20 (4):440-475.
    Much debate has ensued regarding the challenge to scientific realism provided by consideration of certain problematic episodes of theory change in the history of science. This paper contends that there is an interesting case which has been overlooked in this debate, namely the prediction of the positron by Dirac from his ‘hole’ theory, and its subsequent replacement by a theory which failed to contain a central, and essential, theoretical posit: the ‘Dirac sea’ of negative energy electrons. Accounting for this case (...)
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  23. Scientific Realism and the Rationality of Science. [REVIEW]Chiara Ambrosio - 2009 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 24 (3):368-370.
  24. Kuhn, the Correspondence Theory of Truth and Coherentist Epistemology.Jouni-Matti Kuukkanen - 2007 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 38 (3):555-566.
    Kuhn argued against both the correspondence theory of truth and convergent realism. Although he likely misunderstood the nature of the correspondence theory, which it seems he wrongly believed to be an epistemic theory, Kuhn had an important epistemic point to make. He maintained that any assessment of correspondence between beliefs and reality is not possible, and therefore, the acceptance of beliefs and the presumption of their truthfulness has to be decided on the basis of other criteria. I will show that (...)
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  25. Some Convergences and Divergences in the Realism of Charles Peirce and Ayn Rand.Marc Champagne - 2006 - Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 8 (1):19-39.
    Structured around Charles S. Peirce's three-fold categorical scheme, this article proposes a comparative study of Ayn Rand and Peirce's realist views in general metaphysics. Rand's stance is seen as diverging with Peirce's argument from asymptotic representation but converging with arguments from brute relation and neutral category. It is argued that, by dismissing traditional subject-object dualisms, Rand and Peirce both propose iconoclastic construals of what it means to be real, dismissals made all the more noteworthy by the fact each chose to (...)
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  26. Why Does Laudan’s Confutation of Convergent Realism Fail?Antonio Diéguez-Lucena - 2006 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 37 (2):393 - 403.
    In his paper "A Confutation of Convergent Realism", Larry Laudan offered one of the most powerful criticisms of scientific realism. I defend here that although Laudan's criticism is right, this does not refute the realist position. The thesis that Laudan confutes is a much stronger thesis than realist needs to maintain. As I will exemplify with Salmon's statistical-relevance model, a less strict notion of explanation would allow us to claim that (approximate) truth is the best explanation for such success, even (...)
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  27. Why Does Laudan’s Confutation of Convergent Realism Fail?Antonio Diéguez-Lucena - 2006 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 37 (2):393-403.
    In his paper "A Confutation of Convergent Realism", Larry Laudan offered one of the most powerful criticisms of scientific realism. I defend here that although Laudan's criticism is right, this does not refute the realist position. The thesis that Laudan confutes is a much stronger thesis than realist needs to maintain. As I will exemplify with Salmon's statistical-relevance model, a less strict notion of explanation would allow us to claim that truth is the best explanation for such success, even if (...)
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  28. Genetic Epistemology and Piaget's Philosophy of Science: Piaget Vs. Kuhn on Scientific Progress.Jonathan Y. Tsou - 2006 - Theory and Psychology 16 (2):203-224.
    This paper concerns Jean Piaget's (1896–1980) philosophy of science and, in particular, the picture of scientific development suggested by his theory of genetic epistemology. The aims of the paper are threefold: (1) to examine genetic epistemology as a theory concerning the growth of knowledge both in the individual and in science; (2) to explicate Piaget's view of ‘scientific progress’, which is grounded in his theory of equilibration; and (3) to juxtapose Piaget's notion of progress with Thomas Kuhn's (1922–1996). Issues of (...)
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  29. Science and Partial Truth. [REVIEW]Joseph E. Earley - 2005 - Review of Metaphysics 59 (2):413-415.
  30. Scientific Realism, Ramsey Sentences and the Reference of Theoretical Terms.Pierre Cruse - 2004 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 18 (2 & 3):133 – 149.
    It is often thought that questions of reference are crucial in assessing scientific realism, construed as the view that successful theories are at least approximately true descriptions of the unobservable; realism is justified only if terms in empirically successful theories generally refer to genuinely existing entities or properties. In this paper this view is questioned. First, it is argued that there are good reasons to think that questions of realism are largely decided by convention and carry no epistemic significance. An (...)
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  31. Are Our Best Physical Theories (Probably and/or Approximately) True?Jeffrey A. Barrett - 2003 - Philosophy of Science 70 (5):1206-1218.
    There is good reason to suppose that our best physical theories are false: In addition to its own internal problems, the standard formulation of quantum mechanics is logically incompatible with special relativity. I will also argue that we have no concrete idea what it means to claim that these theories are approximately true.
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  32. Preservative Realism and its Discontents: Revisiting Caloric.Hasok Chang - 2003 - Philosophy of Science 70 (5):902-912.
    A popular and plausible response against Laudan's “pessimistic induction” has been what I call “preservative realism,” which argues that there have actually been enough elements of scientific knowledge preserved through major theory‐change processes, and that those elements can be accepted realistically. This paper argues against preservative realism, in particular through a critical review of Psillos's argument concerning the case of the caloric theory of heat. Contrary to his argument, the historical record of the caloric theory reveals that beliefs about the (...)
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  33. Success, Truth and the Galilean Strategy.P. D. Magnus - 2003 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 54 (3):465-474.
    Philip Kitcher develops the Galilean Strategy to defend realism against its many opponents. I explore the structure of the Galilean Strategy and consider it specifically as an instrument against constructive empiricism. Kitcher claims that the Galilean Strategy underwrites an inference from success to truth. We should resist that conclusion, I argue, but the Galilean Strategy should lead us by other routes to believe in many things about which the empiricist would rather remain agnostic. 1 Target: empiricism 2 The Galilean Strategy (...)
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  34. „A Confutation of Convergent Realism “in Yuri Balashov and Alex Rosenberg.Larry Laudan - 2002 - In Yuri Balashov & Alexander Rosenberg (eds.), Philosophy of Science: Contemporary Readings. Routledge. pp. 211--33.
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  35. Putnam’s Progress.Julian Baggini - 2001 - The Philosophers' Magazine 15:43-45.
  36. The Convergence of Scientific Knowledge a View From the Limit.Vincent F. Hendricks - 2001
    This book will be a rewarding reading for everybody who is interested in logical aspects of scientific knowledge acquisition. The presentation of the issues discussed in the book is exemplary. The author was able to present in parallel way three different perspectives under which the issues discussed in the book might be approached.
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  37. Quests of a Realist (Review of Stathis Psillos' Scientific Realism, Routledge 1999).Michael Redhead - 2001 - Aahpsss 10 (3):341-371.
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  38. Can a Historian of Science Be a Scientific Realist?Theodore Arabatzis - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 68 (S3):S531-S541.
    In this paper I address some of the problems that the historical development of science poses for a realist and discuss whether a realist construal of scientific activity is conducive to historiographical practice. First, I discuss, by means of historical examples, Ian Hacking's defense of entity realism. Second, I try to show, drawing on Kuhn's recent work on incommensurability, that the realism problem is relevant to historiography and that a realist position entails a particular historiographical strategy, which faces problems. Finally, (...)
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  39. Studies in Scientific Realism.Jarrett Leplin - 2000 - Philosophical Review 109 (1):109-112.
    Why be a scientific realist? The predominant motivation is explanationist: we need realism to understand the successfulness of science. Why be an antirealist? The predominant motivation is skeptical: theory systematically exceeds the reach of empirical warrant. Antirealists deny that explanatory power is evidential; realists deny that the reach of empirical warrant summarily terminates at the boundary of the observable. But these counterarguments are mere protection of philosophical stances to which the adversaries independently incline.
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  40. Scientific Realism and the Problem of Progress.Howard Sankey - 1997 - Cogito 11 (2):89-94.
  41. Realismus in Duhems Naturgemässer Klassifikation.Alex Burri - 1996 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 27 (2):203 - 213.
    Realism in Duhem's Natural Classification. Pierre Duhem is an outstanding exponent of empiricism. According to the empiricist view scientific laws and theories merely describe formal relations between observable phenomena. Duhems' important notion of natural classification is intended to explain the predictive success of science. I shall argue that it can only be interpreted realistically. Besides the success of science, two further arguments are put forward in favor of realism: (i) the fact that laws of nature are necessary, and (ii) the (...)
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  42. Realism in the Sciences Proceedings of the Ernan Mcmullin Symposium, Leuven, 1995.Igor Douven & Leon Horsten - 1996
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  43. Non-Empirical Theoretical Virtues and the Argument From Underdetermination.Andre Kukla - 1994 - Erkenntnis 41 (2):157 - 170.
    The antirealist argument from the underdetermination of theories by data relies on the premise that the empirical content of a theory is the only determinant of its belief-worthiness (premise NN). Several authors have claimed that the antirealist cannot endorse NN, on pain of internal inconsistency. I concede this point. Nevertheless, this refutation of the underdetermination argument fails because there are weaker substitutes for NN that will serve just as well as a premise to the argument. On the other hand, antirealists (...)
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  44. Realism and the Aim of Science: From the Postscript to the Logic of Scientific Discovery.Karl Popper - 1992 - Routledge.
    Realism and the Aim of Science is one of the three volumes of Karl Popper’s Postscript to the Logic of scientific Discovery. The Postscript is the culmination of Popper’s work in the philosophy of physics and a new famous attack on subjectivist approaches to philosophy of science. Realism and the Aim of Science is the first volume of the Postcript . Popper here formulates and explains his non-justificationist theory of knowledge: science aims at true explanatory theories, yet it can never (...)
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  45. Approximate Truth and Scientific Realism.Thomas Weston - 1992 - Philosophy of Science 59 (1):53-74.
    This paper describes a theory of accuracy or approximate truth and applies it to problems in the realist interpretation of scientific theories. It argues not only that realism requires approximate truth, but that an adequate theory of approximation also presupposes some elements of a realist interpretation of theories. The paper distinguishes approximate truth from vagueness, probability and verisimilitude, and applies it to problems of confirmation and deduction from inaccurate premises. Basic results are cited, but details appear elsewhere. Objections are surveyed, (...)
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  46. Approximate Truth, Idealization, and Ontology.Robert John Schwartz - 1990 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 28 (3):409-425.
  47. Discussion: Testing for Convergent Realism.Jerrold L. Aronson - 1989 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 40 (2):255-9.
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  48. Testing for Convergent Realism.Jerrold L. Aronson - 1989 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 40 (2):255-259.
    Larry Laudan has challenged the realist to come up with a program that submits realism to "those stringent empirical demands which the realist himself minimally insists on when appraising scientific theories." This paper shows how the realist can go about taking up Laudan on this challenge; and, in such a way that the realist hypothesis actually ends up being confirmed, by any empirical standards. In other words, it is shown that we can test for convergent realism, just as readily as (...)
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  49. Scientific Realism: A Critical ReappraisalNicholas Rescher.Larry Laudan - 1989 - Isis 80 (4):745-746.
  50. Scientific Method: Realism, Reference and Theory.Rom Harré - 1988 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Lectures 24:53-68.
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