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Summary Scientific realism is primarily a view about theoretical science.  According to a classic (or "standard") form of scientific realism, the unobservable "theoretical" entities postulated by scientific theories (e.g. atoms, electrons) are real and theoretical claims about those entities are true or approximately true.  Scientific realism contrasts with commonsense realism, which is realism about the observable entities of the ordinary, everyday world.  Scientific realism may be combined with commonsense realism, though some philosophers take there to be a conflict between science and common sense, which may make it difficult to reconcile the two doctrines.  Some scientific realists ("entity realists") emphasise the reality of theoretical entities while downplaying or avoiding altogether talk of the truth of theories.  Some scientific realists (e.g. "structural realists") downplay or reject the reality of theoretical entities while emphasising structural aspects of theory or reality. Some anti-realists (e.g. "constructive empiricists") admit commonsense realism while rejecting or withholding judgment about scientific realism.  The classic opponent of scientific realism ("instrumentalism") denies that theoretical discourse about theoretical entities is to be interpreted in literal fashion, instead taking the latter to be fictitious entities which play at most a role in prediction at the observational level.  The major argument for scientific realism is the "success argument" (also known as the "no miracles argument" and the "ultimate argument") that scientific realism is the best explanation of the success of science.  Scientific realists who emphasize truth in their formulation of the view require an account of approximate truth or verisimilitude because they tend to see science as progressing toward truth rather than having already reached the final truth about the world (this view is sometimes known as "convergent realism").  The main arguments against scientific realism are that the truth of theory is radically underdetermined by empirical data and the so-called "pessimistic induction" from the falsity of past theories to the likely falsity of current theories.  An important response to the latter objection is that scientific realists should only take specific parts of theories to be true or approximately true rather than take the entirety of a theory to be true or approximately true (so-called "deployment realism"). 
Key works Ian Hacking's book, Representing and Intervening Hacking 1983, provides general discussion of the issues relating to scientific realism, emphasising entity realism.  Stathis Psillos's book, Scientific Realism: How Science Tracks Truth Psillos 1999, also provides general coverage, while developing a deployment realist approach. Two important collections are Jarrett Leplin (ed.) Scientific Realism Leplin 1984, and the more recent Routledge Handbook of Scientific Realism edited by Juha Saatsi Saatsi 2017.  Larry Laudan's paper, 'A Confutation of Convergent Realism', presents criticism of scientific realism that is sometimes understood as a pessimistic induction Laudan 1981.  Bas van Fraassen's book, The Scientific Image Van Fraassen Bas 1980, presents criticism of scientific realism and articulates the constructive empiricist form of anti-realism.  For development of structural realism, see John Worrall, 'Structural Realism: The Best of Both Worlds?' Worrall 1989 and James Ladyman 'What is Structural Realism?' Ladyman 1998.
Introductions See Michael Devitt's entry on scientific realism in The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary PhilosophyDevitt 2005 and Anjan Chakravartty's entry on scientific realism in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Chakravartty 2013.  For a quite basic introduction to scientific realism, see Howard Sankey, 'What is Scientific Realism?' Sankey 2000, which is also available in French translation Sankey 2002.
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  1. Beyond the Metrological Viewpoint.Jean Baccelli - 2020 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 1:56-61.
    The representational theory of measurement has long been the central paradigm in the philosophy of measurement. Such is not the case anymore, partly under the influence of the critique according to which RTM offers too poor descriptions of the measurement procedures actually followed in science. This can be called the metrological critique of RTM. I claim that the critique is partly irrelevant. This is because, in general, RTM is not in the business of describing measurement procedures, be it in idealized (...)
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  2. Psychopathology and Truth: A Defense of Realism.Markus I. Eronen - 2019 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 44 (4):507-520.
    Recently Kenneth Kendler and Peter Zachar have raised doubts about the correspondence theory of truth and scientific realism in psychopathology. They argue that coherentist or pragmatist approaches to truth are better suited for understanding the reality of psychiatric disorders. In this article, I show that rejecting realism based on the correspondence theory is deeply problematic: It makes psychopathology categorically different from other sciences, and results in an implausible view of scientific discovery and progress. As an alternative, I suggest a robustness-based (...)
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  3. Scientific Metaphysics and Information.Bruce Long - forthcoming - Springer.
    This book investigates the interplay between two new and influential subdisciplines in the philosophy of science and philosophy: contemporary scientific metaphysics and the philosophy of information. Scientific metaphysics embodies various scientific realisms and has a partial intellectual heritage in some forms of neo-positivism, but is far more attuned than the latter to statistical science, theory defeasibility, scale variability, and pluralist ontological and explanatory commitments, and is averse to a-priori conceptual analysis. The philosophy of information is the combination of what has (...)
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  4. The "Unreasonable" Effectiveness of Mathematics: The Foundational Approach of the Theoretic Alternatives.Catalin Barboianu - 2015 - Revista de Filosofie 62 (1):58-71.
    The attempts of theoretically solving the famous puzzle-dictum of physicist Eugene Wigner regarding the “unreasonable” effectiveness of mathematics as a problem of analytical philosophy, started at the end of the 19th century, are yet far from coming out with an acceptable theoretical solution. The theories developed for explaining the empirical “miracle” of applied mathematics vary in nature, foundation and solution, from denying the existence of a genuine problem to structural theories with an advanced level of mathematical formalism. Despite this variation, (...)
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  5. Being Realist About Bayes, and the Predictive Processing Theory of Mind.Matteo Colombo, Lee Elkin & Stephan Hartmann - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
    Some naturalistic philosophers of mind subscribing to the predictive processing theory of mind have adopted a realist attitude towards the results of Bayesian cognitive science. In this paper, we argue that this realist attitude is unwarranted. The Bayesian research program in cognitive science does not possess special epistemic virtues over alternative approaches for explaining mental phenomena involving uncertainty. In particular, the Bayesian approach is not simpler, more unifying, or more rational than alternatives. It is also contentious that the Bayesian approach (...)
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  6. Studying Natural Science Without Nature? Reflections on the Realism of so-Called Laboratory Studies.Nils Roll-Hansen - 1998 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 29 (1):165-187.
  7. Psychiatry in Quest After Orientation.Richard F. Mollica - 1986 - Analecta Husserliana 20:101.
    The traditional gap between scholarly studies of facts and principles on the one hand, and the practical solution of human problems concerning these facts, on the other hand, has in certain fields been considerably narrowed. The mathematical and empirical sciences have been able to directly apply their theories through universal techniques to the needs of human life. The classic discrepancy between theory and practice seems to have been overcome by the latter. Psychiatry, however, remains ambivalent about its ability to integrate (...)
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  8. Railton, explanation, and metaphysical debates.Seyed Mohammad Hosseini & Majid Akbari - 2014 - Journal of Philosophical Investigations at University of Tabriz 24 (5):69-92.
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  9. Ontological Principles and the Intelligibility of Epistemic Activities.Hasok Chang - 2009 - In Henk De Regt, Sabina Leonelli & Kai Eigner (eds.), Scientific Understanding: Philosophical Perspectives. University of Pittsburgh Press. pp. 64--82.
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  10. On Being and Saying: Essays for Richard Cartwright.James Bogen - 1989 - Philosophical Books 30 (2):92-94.
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  11. Contemporary Philosophy (La Philosophie Contemporaine). Volume II, Philosophy of Science.R. H. K. - 1970 - Review of Metaphysics 23 (3):571-572.
    This second volume in the series designed to review the work done in various areas of philosophy during the period 1956-1966 is concerned with the philosophy of science. There are forty essays on a variety of topics in the philosophy of science describing the work done in that area in the past decade and a bibliography covering the same period. Most are in English, some in French or German. Some representative topics and their authors are: Laws, Models, Causality, Induction and (...)
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  12. Perspectivism, Realism, and Psychotherapy.Paul B. Lieberman - 1999 - Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 6 (3):181-186.
Varieties of Scientific Realism
  1. Internal Perspectivalism: The Solution to Generality Problems About Proper Function and Natural Norms.Jason Winning - 2020 - Biology and Philosophy 35 (33):1-22.
    In this paper, I argue that what counts as the proper function of a trait is a matter of the de facto perspective that the biological system, itself, possesses on what counts as proper functioning for that trait. Unlike non-perspectival accounts, internal perspectivalism does not succumb to generality problems. But unlike external perspectivalism, internal perspectivalism can provide a fully naturalistic, mind-independent grounding of proper function and natural norms. The attribution of perspectives to biological systems is intended to be neither metaphorical (...)
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  2. Aktiver Realismus und die Geltungsansprüche wissenschaftlicher Wahrheiten.Miguel Ohnesorge - forthcoming - In Michael Jungert, Andres Frewer & Erasmus Mayr (eds.), Wissenschaftsreflexion: Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven zwischen Philosophie und Praxis. Paderborn, Deutschland:
    Author's summary: I discuss the lessons that scientific realism, understood as a thesis about the metaphysical, epistemological, and semantic interpretation of scientific theories, has to learn from the philosophy of scientific practice. The standard arguments for scientific realism are shown to be incompatible with a practice-based understanding of theories, as they fail short of offering operationally sound concepts of "truth" and "reality. " I propose Hasok Chang's Active Realism (AR) as a solution to this compatibility problem and defend it against (...)
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  3. The Objectivity of Science.Howard Sankey - forthcoming - In Juan Carlos Aguirre-Garcia (ed.), Objectivity in Human Sciences.
    The notion of objectivity is ambiguous. A distinction is made between three primary notions of objectivity: ontological objectivity, the objectivity of truth and epistemic objectivity. It is suggested that a realist may explain the relationship between the three notions by saying that use of epistemically objective methods stands the best chance of leading to the objective truth about the objective world.
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  4. Critiques of Axiological Realism and Surrealism.Seungbae Park - 2020 - Acta Analytica 35 (1):61-74.
    Lyons’s (2003, 2018) axiological realism holds that science pursues true theories. I object that despite its name, it is a variant of scientific antirealism, and is susceptible to all the problems with scientific antirealism. Lyons (2003, 2018) also advances a variant of surrealism as an alternative to the realist explanation for success. I object that it does not give rise to understanding because it is an ad hoc explanans and because it gives a conditional explanation. Lyons might use axiological realism (...)
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  5. Juha Saatsi, Ed., "The Routledge Handbook of Scientific Realism.". [REVIEW]Jan Arreman - 2019 - Philosophy in Review 39 (2):103-104.
    Review of The Routledge Handbook of Scientific Realism by Juha Saatsi (ed.).
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  6. Realism, Social Theory, and Theoretical Practice.Par Engholm - 2000 - Alethia 3 (2):14-20.
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  7. On Saving the Astronomical Phenomena: Physical Realism in Struggle with Mathematical Realism in Francis Bacon, Al-Bitruji, and Averroës.Ünsal Çimen - 2019 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 9 (1):135-151.
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  8. The Descriptive and Normative Versions of Scientific Realism and Pessimism.Seungbae Park - 2019 - Filozofia: Journal for Philosophy 74 (4):278–290.
    Descriptive realism holds that T is true, while normative realism holds that T is warranted. Descriptive pessimism holds that T is false, while normative pessimism holds that T is unwarranted. We should distinguish between descriptive and normative realism because some arguments against scientific realism require that scientific realism be interpreted as descriptive realism, and because scientific realists can retreat from descriptive to normative realism when descriptive realism is under attack. We should also distinguish between descriptive and normative pessimism because some (...)
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  9. Comment on Scientific Objectivity with a Human Face by Professor Holm Tetens.Howard Sankey - 2004 - In Martin Carrier, J. Roggenhoffer, G. Kuppers & Ph Blanchard (eds.), Knowledge and the World: Challenges Beyond the Science Wars. Berlin Heidelberg New York: Springer-Verlag. pp. 95-98.
    This is a comment on Professor Holm Tetens' paper, 'Scientific Objectivity with a Human Face'.
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  10. What is Scientific Realism?Howard Sankey - 2000 - Divinatio 12:103-120.
    This is an introduction to the position of scientific realism, which outlines a number of core doctrines of scientific realism, and indicates a number of optional and non-core doctrine. It also sketches the basic argument for scientific realism, known as the success argument.
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  11. A Less Than Direct Connection Indeed: Reply to Jakowljewitsch.Howard Sankey - 2006 - Divinatio 24:157-168.
    This is a response to Dragan Jakowljewitsch's 'The Successes of Science and Scientific-Theoretical Realism: A Less Than Direct Connection'.
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  12. Realism Without Limits.Howard Sankey - 2004 - Divinatio 20:145-165.
    This is a sequel to my paper, ‘What is Scientific Realism?’, which appeared in an earlier issue of this journal (Sankey, 2000a). A number of papers by other authors on topics relating to scientific realism have followed in subsequent issues. In this paper I revisit some of the themes developed in my earlier paper in the light of these later papers. I begin by restating the key ideas of the earlier paper. Next, I mention a number of afterthoughts which I (...)
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  13. Scientific Realism and the Conflict with Common Sense.Howard Sankey - forthcoming - In Wenceslao Gonzalez (ed.), New Approaches to Scientific Realism. De Gruyter.
    In this paper, I explore the purported conflict between science and common sense within the context of scientific realism. I argue for a version of scientific realism which retains commitment to realism about common sense rather than seeking to eliminate it.
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  14. Science, Common Sense and Reality.Howard Sankey - manuscript
    Does science provide knowledge of reality? In this paper, I offer a positive response to this question. I reject the anti-realist claim that we are unable to acquire knowledge of reality in favour of the realist view that science yields knowledge of the external world. But what world is that? Some argue that science leads to the overthrow of our commonsense view of the world. Common sense is “stone-age metaphysics” to be rejected as the false theory of our primitive ancestors. (...)
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  15. What Do Symmetries Tell Us About Structure?Thomas William Barrett - 2017 - Philosophy of Science (4):617-639.
    Mathematicians, physicists, and philosophers of physics often look to the symmetries of an object for insight into the structure and constitution of the object. My aim in this paper is to explain why this practice is successful. In order to do so, I present a collection of results that are closely related to (and in a sense, generalizations of) Beth’s and Svenonius’ theorems.
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  16. Realism and Explanatory Perspectivism.Juha Saatsi - forthcoming - In Michela Massimi & C. D. McCoy (eds.), Understanding Perspectivism: Scientific Challenges and Methodological Prospects. New York: Routledge.
    This chapter defends a (minimal) realist conception of progress in scientific understanding in the face of the ubiquitous plurality of perspectives in science. The argument turns on the counterfactual-dependence framework of explanation and understanding, which is illustrated and evidenced with reference to different explanations of the rainbow.
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  17. Scientific Realism Meets Metaphysics of Quantum Mechanics.Juha Saatsi - 2017 - In Philosophers Think About Quantum Theory.
    I examine the epistemological debate on scientific realism in the context of quantum physics, focusing on the empirical underdetermin- ation of different formulations and interpretations of QM. I will argue that much of the interpretational, metaphysical work on QM tran- scends the kinds of realist commitments that are well-motivated in the light of the history of science. I sketch a way of demarcating empirically well-confirmed aspects of QM from speculative quantum metaphysics in a way that coheres with anti-realist evidence from (...)
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  18. Book Review:Is Science Progressive? Ilkka Niiniluoto.Jarrett Leplin - 1985 - Philosophy of Science 52 (4):646-648.
  19. Ilkka Niiniluoto, Critical Scientific Realism. Oxford: Oxford University Press , Xiv + 341 Pp.Ioannis Votsis - 2003 - Philosophy of Science 70 (2):444-447.
    This is certainly true. Simulationists and experimentalists face equally relevant challenges when it comes to establishing that the results of their simulation or experiment are informative about the real world. But it is one thing to point this fact out, and it is another to understand how those challenges are overcome, under differing circumstances, and in varying contexts. It is here that Marcel Boumans’ contribution becomes especially valuable. He presents an example from economics in which a mathematical model performs the (...)
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  20. Unification as a Measure of Natural Classification.Victor Gijsbers - 2014 - Theoria : An International Journal for Theory, History and Fundations of Science 29 (1):71-82.
    Recent interest in the idea that there can be scientific understanding without explanation lends new relevance to Duhem's notion of natural classification. According to Duhem, a classification that is natural teaches us something about nature without being explanatory. However, Duhem's conception of naturalness leaves much to be desired. In this paper, I argue that we can measure the naturalness of classification by using an amended version of the notion of unification as defined by Schurz and Lambert. If this thesis is (...)
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  21. Theoretical Virtues in Science : Uncovering Reality Through Theory.Samuel Schindler - 2018 - Cambridge University Press.
    What are the features of a good scientific theory? Samuel Schindler's book revisits this classical question in the philosophy of science and develops new answers to it. Theoretical virtues matter not only for choosing theories 'to work with', but also for what we are justified in believing: only if the theories we possess are good ones can we be confident that our theories' claims about nature are actually correct. Recent debates have focussed rather narrowly on a theory's capacity to predict (...)
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  22. Allan Franklin. Shifting Standards: Experiments in Particle Physics in the Twentieth Century. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013. Pp. 360. $50.00. [REVIEW]Kent Staley & Heraclio Tavares - 2016 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 6 (1):158-162.
  23. Mechanisms, Principles, and Lorentz's Cautious Realism.Mathias Frisch - 2002 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 36 (4):659-679.
  24. Blind Realism: An Essay on Human Knowledge and Natural Science.Mark T. Nelson - 1995 - Philosophical Quarterly 45 (178):127-129.
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  25. Eclectic Realism—a Cake Less Filling.Jacob Busch - 2008 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 39 (2):270-272.
    In a recent volume of this journal Saatsi [Saatsi, J.. Reconsidering the Fresnel–Maxwell theory shift: How the realist can have her cake and EAT it too. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 36, 509–536.] suggests that we adopt an approach where we explain phenomena reductively, by properties that are described via their nomological roles. These properties are conceived of as higher-order multiply realisable properties. Such properties are however not causally efficacious independent of their causal basis. Therefore Saatsi has left (...)
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  26. The Electrons of the Dinosaurs and the Center of the Earth: Comments on D.D. Turner’s ‘The Past Vs. The Tiny: Historical Science and the Abductive Arguments for Realism’. [REVIEW]Christián C. Carman - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 36 (1):171-173.
    Turner [The past vs. the tiny: Historical science and the abductive arguments for realism. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 35A 1] claims that the arguments in favor of realism do not support with the same force both classes of realism, since they supply stronger reasons for experimental realism than for historical realism. I would like to make two comments, which should be seen as amplifications inspired by his proposal, rather than as a criticism. First, it is important to (...)
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  27. Hooker's Revolutionary Regulatory Realism.Harvey Siegel - 1998 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 29 (1):129-141.
  28. A Philosophical Study Of The Transition From The Caloric Theory Of Heat To Thermodynamics: Resisting the Pessimistic Meta-Induction.Stathis Psillos - 1994 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 25 (2):159-190.
    I began this study with Laudan's argument from the pessimistic induction and I promised to show that the caloric theory of heat cannot be used to support the premisses of the meta-induction on past scientific theories. I tried to show that the laws of experimental calorimetry, adiabatic change and Carnot's theory of the motive power of heat were independent of the assumption that heat is a material substance, approximately true, deducible and accounted for within thermodynamics.I stressed that results and were (...)
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  29. Scientific Perspectivism: Behind the Stage Door.Ronald N. Giere - 2009 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 40 (2):221-223.
    Adopting the stage metaphor suggested in Brown’s review, and treating Scientific perspectivism as a play in five acts, I respond to his review as a playwright might respond to a generally favorable review. Taking the reader behind the stage door, I discuss the playwright’s intentions for each act, paying special attention to the expected audience for the play as a whole. The result, therefore, supplements the review from the standpoint of the playwright. It also provides answers to some of the (...)
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  30. A Realist Theory of Science. [REVIEW]J. B. R. - 1980 - Review of Metaphysics 33 (3):619-620.
    First published in 1975 by Leeds Books Ltd., this second, revised edition adds only a short, twelve page Postscript and an Index. The former replies to reviews of the original edition by clarifying the use of two key terms, by commenting on its principal weaknesses, and by indicating the direction of further work required by the position advocated.
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  31. Realism and Other Philosophical Mantras.Robert C. Sutton - 1995 - Inquiry: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines 14 (4):36-41.
  32. One World and Our Knowledge of It: The Problematic of Realism in Post-Kantian Perspective. [REVIEW]Alison Wylie - 1986 - International Studies in Philosophy 18 (3):83-85.
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  33. Tuukka Kaidesoja on Critical Realist Transcendental Realism.Ruth Groff - 2015 - Journal of Social Ontology 1 (2):341-348.
    I argue that critical realists think pretty much what Tukka Kaidesoja says that he himself thinks, but also that Kaidesoja’s objections to the views that he attributes to critical realists are not persuasive.
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  34. Abduction, Realism and Ethics.Eleonora Orlando - 2001 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 16 (2):331-352.
    In this paper, I am concerned with the possibility of applying an abductive strategy in founding ethical realism. First, I criticize Harman’s position, according to which abduction, though useful for founding scientific realism, does not serve to found ethical realism. Secondly, I examine Sturgeon’s critique, according to which distinctively moral facts do constitute the best explanations of the moral evidence. Finally,I conclude that Sturgeon is right in as far as the ontological status of moral properties is concerned but his answer (...)
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  35. A Realist Philosophy of Science.Lawrence Sklar - 1986 - Philosophical Review 95 (3):444.
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  36. A Study in Realism.Alfred H. Jones - 1921 - Philosophical Review 30 (6):633.
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  37. Scientific Virtues.Doren A. Recker - unknown
    Chapter I describes diachronic realism and shows why it is a version of what is called 'metaphysical realism'. Consequently, I argue that recent claims that 'metaphysical realism' is incoherent are unfounded. Chapter II argues that certain anti-realist positions involve an insufficient treatment of 'meaning' and 'reference' for theoretical terms. I review much of the current work on theories of reference and show that these incommensurability positions are bankrupt given either of the two most promising theories of reference. Chapter III argues (...)
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  38. Realism and the Progress of Science.Peter James Smith - 1981 - Cambridge University Press.
    This book examines the philosophical foundations of the realist view of the progress of science as cumulative. It is a view that has recently been faced with a number of powerful attacks in which successive scientific theories are seen, not as extending their scope and honing their explanations, but as incommensurable. There is, it is held, in principle no way of establishing that they are about the same things. From the voluminous literature on the topic, Dr Smith has selected relevantly (...)
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