From Standard Scientific Realism and Structural Realism to Best Current Theory Realism

Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 42 (2):295-316 (2011)
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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 I show that PR and SR rest on the implausible assumption that the success of outdated theories requires the realist to hold that these theories possessed truthful components.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SR backpeddles to argue that the realist is only committed to the truth about the structure of relations implied by the outdated theory, in order to explain its success.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argue that the structural component of theories is too bare-bones thin to explain the predictive/explanatory success of outdated theories.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



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