The Pragmatics of Observation

To assess van Fraassen's anti-realism, I examine observation and its relation to judging. I argue that the boundary of observability is determined pragmatically, because observing depends on the context of inquiry and because the 'able' in 'observable' implicitly involves human interests and concerns. Thus, observability is like van Fraassen's notions of simplicity and explanation. While a non-pragmatic notion of observability can be devised, then virtually any event is potentially observable. Consequently, van Fraassen's attempt to divide empirical adequacy from the pragmatic features of theories loses much of its plausibility, and his anti-realism loses a potential motivation. Indeed, his anti-realism begins to look rather arbitrary.
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