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Summary

Entity realism is a form of selective scientific realism, claiming that our causal interaction with unobservable entities, such as DNA molecules and atoms, justifies our belief in the existence of unobservable entities. Contrary to standard scientific realism, according to which we should believe in the approximate truth of our most empirically successful theories, entity realism endorses skepticism with respect to the truth of our theories. What warrants our belief in unobservable entities is not the truth of the theories that postulate them but our ability to causally interact with these entities and use them to intervene in other phenomena. 

Key works

Entity realism was developed by Ian Hacking [Hacking 1982 and Hacking 1983] and Nancy Cartwright [Cartwright 1983]. Objections are developed in Morrison 1990, Chakravartty 2007 and Massimi 2004.

Introductions For a comprehensive introduction to entity realism and its main problems, see chapter 2 from Chakravartty 2007. See also Hacking 1983, Cartwright 1983 and Massimi 2004.
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  1. Peter Achinstein (2002). Is There a Valid Experimental Argument for Scientific Realism? Journal of Philosophy 99 (9):470-495.
  2. Theodore Arabatzis (2011). Integrating History and Philosophy of Science. Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science 263:125-139.
    In this chapter I investigate the prospects of integrated history and philosophy of science, by examining how philosophical issues raised by “hidden entities”, entities that are not accessible to unmediated observation, can enrich the historical investigation of their careers. Conversely, I suggest that the history of those entities has important lessons to teach to the philosophy of science. Hidden entities have played a crucial role in the development of the natural sciences. Despite their centrality to past scientific practice, however, several (...)
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  3. Daniela M. Bailer-Jones (2001). Nancy Cartwright, the Dappled World. A Study of the Boundaries of Science. Erkenntnis 54 (3):412-415.
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  4. Luc Bovens, Carl Hoefer & Stephan Hartmann (eds.) (2010). Nancy Cartwright’s Philosophy of Science. Routledge.
    Nancy Cartwright is one of the most distinguished and influential contemporary philosophers of science. Despite the profound impact of her work, there is neither a systematic exposition of Cartwright’s philosophy of science nor a collection of articles that contains in-depth discussions of the major themes of her philosophy. This book is devoted to a critical assessment of Cartwright’s philosophy of science and contains contributions from Cartwright's champions and critics. Broken into three parts, the book begins by addressing Cartwright's views on (...)
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  5. Luc Bovens, Carl Hoefer & Stephan Hartmann (eds.) (2008). Nancy Cartwright’s Philosophy of Science. Routledge.
    Nancy Cartwright is one of the most distinguished and influential contemporary philosophers of science. Despite the profound impact of her work, there is neither a systematic exposition of Cartwright’s philosophy of science nor a collection of articles that contains in-depth discussions of the major themes of her philosophy. This book is devoted to a critical assessment of Cartwright’s philosophy of science and contains contributions from Cartwright's champions and critics. Broken into three parts, the book begins by addressing Cartwright's views on (...)
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  6. J. Brakevanl (1993). Polywater and Experimental Realism. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 44 (4):775-784.
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  7. Karim Bschir (2012). Wissenschaft und Realität. Versuch eines pragmatischen Empirismus. Mohr Siebeck.
    Versuch eines pragmatischen Empirismus Karim Bschir. vom Rationalismus abzugrenzen, welcher neben der Erfahrung auch die reine Verstandestätigkeit als Erkenntnisquelle zulässt. Auf der anderen Seite benutzt man „Empirismus“ bzw.
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  8. Jacob Busch (2006). Entity Realism Meets the Pessimistic Meta-Induction – The World is Not Enough. SATS: Northern European Journal of Philosophy 7 (106):26.
    In the following I briefly set out Devitt's (1997) definition of entity realism and compare it to Hacking's (1983) definition. I then set out the pessimistic induction argument as suggested by Putnam (1978). I present an argument developed by Bertolet (1988) to the effect that Devitt's abductive defence of realism fails. In the light of its failure, Devitt offers the ability of his definition of scientific realism to solve the pessimistic induction argument as a tactical advantage for his definition. I (...)
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  9. Jacek Cachro & Tomasz Placek (2003). Cartwright's Models Are Not Adequate for EPR. In A. Rojszczak, J. Cachro & G. Kurczewski (eds.), Philosophical Dimensions of Logic and Science. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 213--231.
    We assess Cartwright's models for probabilistic causality, and in particular, her models for EPR-like experiments of quantum mechanics. We show that her models for the EPR are mathematically incorrect and physically implausible. Finally, we argue that her models are not adequate for EPR-phenomena, since they ignore modal and spatiotemporal aspects inherent in their setup.
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  10. N. Cartwright (1995). An Interview with Nancy Cartwright. Cogito 9 (3):203-215.
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  11. Philip Ellery Catton (1991). Science and the Systematicity of Nature: A Critique of Nancy Cartwright's Doctrine of Nature and Natural Science. Dissertation, The University of Western Ontario (Canada)
    Whether nature is or is not systematic sounds at first like an idle metaphysical question, but considered in relation to the aims of science and the methods of appraisal of scientific theories, it can be given clear content. It is also necessary to ask the question in order to study the relation of causation, laws of nature, and theoretical structure. ; Aims. The doctrines that science aims to provide explanations, that science achieves success in this aim, that explanation involves unification, (...)
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  12. How to Tell A. Common Cause & Fork Criterion (1988). Nancy Cartwright. In J. Fetzer (ed.), Probability and Causality. D. Reidel. pp. 181.
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  13. Anjan Chakravartty (1998). Semirealism. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 29 (3):391-408.
    The intuition of the naı¨ve realist, miracle arguments notwithstanding, is countered forcefully by a host of considerations, including the possibility of underdetermination, and criticisms of abductive inferences to explanatory hypotheses. Some have suggested that an induction may be performed, from the perspective of present theories, on their predecessors. Past theories are thought to be false, strictly speaking; it is thus likely that present-day theories are also false, and will be taken as such at an appropriate future time.
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  14. Ruey-Lin Chen (2008). Reconsidering Experimental Realism. Proceedings of the Xxii World Congress of Philosophy 43:33-41.
    This paper discusses Hacking’s experimental realism and suggests a concept of realization to the issue about realism. I first rephrase Hacking’s experimental realism by reconstructing them into two theses and three arguments. Then I consider that Resnik’s objection to Hacking’s experimental realism. According to my understanding of Hacking’s experimental realism, Resnik’s objection failed because of his position at theory realism. Nevertheless, I think that there are still two problems about the experimental aspect of the experimental realism. They are the pessimistic (...)
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  15. Stephen Clarke (2010). Transcendental Realisms in the Philosophy of Science: On Bhaskar and Cartwright. Synthese 173 (3):299-315.
    I consider two transcendental arguments for realism in the philosophy of science, which are due to Roy Bhaskar (A realist theory of science, 1975) and Nancy Cartwright (The dappled world, 1999). Bhaskar and Cartwright are both influential figures, however there is little discussion of their use of transcendental arguments in the literature. Here I seek to correct this oversight. I begin by describing the role of the transcendental arguments in question, in the context of the broader philosophical theories in which (...)
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  16. Steve Clarke (2001). Defensible Territory for Entity Realism. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 52 (4):701-722.
    In the face of argument to the contrary, it is shown that there is defensible middle ground available for entity realism, between the extremes of scientific realism and empiricist antirealism. Cartwright's ([1983]) earlier argument for defensible middle ground between these extremes, which depended crucially on the viability of an underdeveloped distinction between inference to the best explanation (IBE) and inference to the most probable cause (IPC), is examined and its defects are identified. The relationship between IBE and IPC is clarified (...)
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  17. Mark Colyvan (1999). Causal Explanation and Ontological Commitment. In Uwe Meixner Peter Simons (ed.), Metaphysics in the Post-Metaphysical Age. Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society. pp. 1--141.
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  18. Robert P. Crease (2013). Scientific Mythbusting. Metascience 22 (2):509-511.
  19. R. Crespo (forthcoming). Nancy Cartwright, Millian and/or Aristotelian. Sapientia.
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  20. Herman de Regt (1994). The Sad but True Story of Entity Realism. In A. A. Derksen (ed.), The Scientific Realism of Rom Harré. Tilburg University Press.
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  21. Jean DeGroot (1986). Representing and Intervening. Review of Metaphysics 39 (4):766-768.
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  22. Mauro Dorato & Massimo Pauri, Holism and Structuralism in Classical and Quantum General Relativity.
    The main aim of our paper is to show that interpretative issues belonging to classical General Relativity (GR) might be preliminary to a deeper understanding of conceptual problems stemming from on-going attempts at constructing a quantum theory of gravity. Among such interpretative issues, we focus on the meaning of general covariance and the related question of the identity of points, by basing our investigation on the Hamiltonian formulation of GR. In particular, we argue that the adoption of a peculiar gauge-fixing (...)
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  23. Juli Kathryn Thorson Eflin (1990). Prospects for Scientific Realism. Dissertation, University of Washington
    I begin the account of scientific realism with the intuition that we explain the behavior of an object by saying what it is and that if we can say what an object is we have an explanation of its behavior. The question the scientific realist needs to answer is whether the intuition is limited to cases in which an explanation is given in macroscopic terms or whether it can be justifiably extended to theoretical explanations. To justify extending the intuition to (...)
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  24. Matthias Egg (2014). 2 Entity Realism. In Scientific Realism in Particle Physics: A Causal Approach. De Gruyter. pp. 19-32.
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  25. Mohamed Elsamahi (1994). Could Theoretical Entities Save Realism? In David & Richard Hull & Burian (ed.), PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association. pp. 173 - 180.
    Hacking and other entity realists suggest a strategy to build scientific realism on a stronger foundation than inference to the best explanation. They argue that if beliefs in the existence of theoretical entities are derived from experimentation rather than theories, they can escape the antirealist's criticism and provide a stronger ground for realism. In this paper, an outline and a critique of entity realism are presented. It will be argued that entity realism cannot stand as a separate position from classical (...)
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  26. Mathias Frisch (2009). Review of Stephan Hartmann, Carl Hoefer, Luc Bovens (Eds.), Nancy Cartwright's Philosophy of Science. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2009 (3).
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  27. Peter Galison (1986). Representing and Intervening: Introductory Topics in the Philosophy of Natural ScienceIan Hacking. Isis 77 (1):118-120.
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  28. Yvon Gauthier (1985). Representing and Intervening: Introductory Topics in the Philosophy of Natural Science Ian Hacking Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983. 287 P. [REVIEW] Dialogue 24 (01):162-.
    This is a lively and clearly written introduction to the philosophy of natural science, organized around the central theme of scientific realism. It has two parts. 'Representing' deals with the different philosophical accounts of scientific objectivity and the reality of scientific entities. The views of Kuhn, Feyerabend, Lakatos, Putnam, van Fraassen, and others, are all considered. 'Intervening' presents the first sustained treatment of experimental science for many years and uses it to give a new direction to debates about realism. Hacking (...)
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  29. Axel Gelfert (2003). Manipulative Success and the Unreal. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 17 (3):245-263.
    In its original form due to Ian Hacking, entity realism postulates a criterion of manipulative success which replaces explanatory virtue as the criterion of justified scientific belief. The article analyses the foundations on which this postulate rests and identifies the conditions on which one can derive a form of entity realism from it. It then develops in detail an extensive class of counterexamples, drawing on the notion of quasi-particles in condensed matter physics. While the phenomena associated with quasi-particles pass the (...)
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  30. Peter Gibbins (1984). Nancy Cartwright's New Philosophy of Physics. [REVIEW] British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 35 (4):390-402.
  31. Ronald N. Giere (2000). Book Review:The Dappled World: A Study of the Boundaries of Science Nancy Cartwright. [REVIEW] Philosophy of Science 67 (3):527-.
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  32. Alan G. Gross (1990). Reinventing Certainty: The Significance of Ian Hacking's Realism. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1990:421 - 431.
    This paper examines Ian Hacking's arguments in favor of entity realism. It shows that his examples from science do not support his realism. Furthermore, his proposed criterion of experimental use is neither sufficient nor necessary for conferring a privileged status on his preferred unobservables. Nonetheless his insight is genuine; it may be most profitably seen as part of a more general effort to create a space for a new form of scientific and philosophical certainty, one that does not require foundations.
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  33. Ian Hacking (1995). Scientific Realism About Some Chemical Entities. Foundations of Science 1 (4):537-542.
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  34. Ian Hacking (1989). Extragalactic Reality: The Case of Gravitational Lensing. Philosophy of Science 56 (4):555-581.
    My Representing and Intervening (1983) concludes with what it calls an experimental argument for scientific realism about entities. The argument is evidently inapplicable to extragalactic astrophysics, but leaves open the possibility that there might be other grounds for scientific realism in that domain. Here I argue for antirealism in astrophysics, although not for any particular kind of antirealism. The argument is conducted by a detailed examination of some current research. It parallels the last chapter of (1983). Both represent the methodological (...)
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  35. Ian Hacking (1983). Representing and Intervening: Introductory Topics in the Philosophy of Natural Science. Cambridge University Press.
    This 1983 book is a lively and clearly written introduction to the philosophy of natural science, organized around the central theme of scientific realism. It has two parts. 'Representing' deals with the different philosophical accounts of scientific objectivity and the reality of scientific entities. The views of Kuhn, Feyerabend, Lakatos, Putnam, van Fraassen, and others, are all considered. 'Intervening' presents the first sustained treatment of experimental science for many years and uses it to give a new direction to debates about (...)
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  36. Ian Hacking (1982). Experimentation and Scientific Realism. Philosophical Topics 13 (1):71-87.
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  37. Eric D. Hetherington (2000). Cartwright, Nancy. The Dappled World: A Study of the Boundaries of Science. Review of Metaphysics 54 (2):424-426.
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  38. Christopher Read Hitchcock (1992). Causal Explanation and Scientific Realism. Erkenntnis 37 (2):151 - 178.
    It is widely believed that many of the competing accounts of scientific explanation have ramifications which are relevant to the scientific realism 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 (...)
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  39. Harmon R. Holcomb (1988). Hacking's Experimental Argument for Realism. Journal of Critical Analysis 9 (1):1-12.
  40. Michael J. Hones (1991). Scientific Realism and Experimental Practice in High-Energy Physics. Synthese 86 (1):29 - 76.
    The issue of scientific realism is discussed in terms of the specific details of the practice of experimental meson and baryon spectroscopy in the field of High-Energy Physics (HEP), during the period from 1966 to 1970. The philosophical positions of I. Hacking, A. Fine, J. Leplin, and N. Rescher that concern scientific realism are presented in such a manner as to allow for the evaluation of their appropriateness in the description of this experimental research field. This philosophical analysis focuses on (...)
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  41. H. Hudson (1964). Is God an Entity? Australasian Journal of Philosophy 42 (1):35 – 45.
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  42. Robert G. Hudson (2000). Perceiving Empirical Objects Directly. Erkenntnis 52 (3):357-371.
    The goal of this paper is to defend the claim that there is such a thing as direct perception, where by ‘direct perception’ I mean perception unmediated by theorizing or concepts. The basis for my defense is a general philosophic perspective which I call ‘empiricist philosophy’. In brief, empiricist philosophy (as I have defined it) is untenable without the occurrence of direct perception. It is untenable without direct perception because, otherwise, one can't escape the hermeneutic circle, as this phrase is (...)
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  43. David Hyder (2003). Review of Ian Hacking, Historical Ontology. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2003 (6).
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  44. Valeriano Iranzo (2000). Manipulabilidad Y Entidades Inobservables (Manipulability and Unobservable Entities). Theoria 15 (1):131-153.
    Una estrategia recientemente utilizada por los defensores deI realismo científico ha sido derivar implicaciones ontológicas deI contexto manipulativo-experimental. EI artículo pretende comparar y valorar dos enfoques diferentes deI argumento de la manipulabilidad -I. Hacking y R. Harré-, cuya idea basíca es que, de cara a establecer la existencia de una entidad, manipularla puede ser tan importante corno observarla. Por último, a fin de evitar los aspectos más cuestionables de ambos enfoques, propongo entender la eficacia manipulativa corno obtención de informacion fiable. (...)
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  45. Milena Ivanova (2013). Did Perrin's Experiments Convert Poincare to Scientific Realism. Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 3 (1):1-19.
    In this paper I argue that Poincaré’s acceptance of the atom does not indicate a shift from instrumentalism to scientific realism. 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 scientific realism in the sense of acceptance of the fundamental existence (...)
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  46. Gwang Soo Jeong (1994). An Examination of the Current Debate Between Epistemological Scientific Realism and Antirealism Focusing on van Fraassen's Antirealism and Hacking's Realism. Dissertation, The University of Utah
    Epistemological scientific realism is the doctrine that we know that at least some theoretical entities exist and hence our belief in the existence of some such entities is justified. The denial of it is epistemological antiscientific realism. ;Since 1980 Bas C. van Fraassen has been the preeminent epistemological antiscientific realist. He holds that no one can be justified in believing in the existence of theoretical entities such as electrons because those entities are unobservable, and there is no acceptable basis for (...)
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  47. Harmke Kamminga & Reza K. Tavakol (1993). How Untidy is God's Mind? A Note on the Dynamical Implications of Nancy Cartwright's Metaphysics. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 44 (3):549-553.
    One of the points of principle made by Cartwright is that the fundamental laws do not describe reality because they are always employed together with ceteris paribus clauses, the implication being that ceteris paribus assumptions always have dire consequences. We here wish to offer a dynamical interpretation of ceteris paribus laws in terms of their stability or fragility. On this interpretation, the consequences of ceteris paribus assumptions become concretely dependent on the nature of the laws under consideration and cannot be (...)
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  48. Martin Kusch (2010). Hacking's Historical Epistemology: A Critique of Styles of Reasoning. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 41 (2):158-173.
    The paper begins with a detailed reconstruction of the development of Ian Hacking’s theory of scientific ‘styles of reasoning’, paying particular attention to Alistair Crombie’s influence, and suggesting that Hacking’s theory deserves to come under the title ‘historical epistemology’. Subsequently, the paper seeks to establish three critical theses. First, Hacking’s reliance on Crombie leads him to adopt an outdated historiographical position; second, Hacking is unsuccessful in his attempt to distance historical epistemology from epistemic relativism; and third, Hacking has not offered (...)
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  49. James Ladyman (2009). Review of Anjan Chakravartty, A Metaphysics for Scientific Realism: Knowing the Unobservable. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2009 (6).
  50. Larry Laudan (1978). Ex-Huming Hacking. [REVIEW] Erkenntnis 13 (1):417-435.
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