A pragmatic, existentialist approach to the scientific realism debate

Synthese 194 (9):3327-3346 (2017)

Abstract
It has become apparent that the debate between scientific realists and constructive empiricists has come to a stalemate. Neither view can reasonably claim to be the most rational philosophy of science, exclusively capable of making sense of all scientific activities. On one prominent analysis of the situation, whether we accept a realist or an anti-realist account of science actually seems to depend on which values we antecedently accept, rather than our commitment to “rationality” per se. Accordingly, several philosophers have attempted to argue in favour of scientific realism or constructive empiricism by showing that one set of values is exclusively best, for anyone and everyone, and that the downstream choice of the philosophy of science which best serves those values is therefore best, for anyone and everyone. These efforts, however, seem to have failed. In response, I suggest that philosophers of science should suspend the effort to determine which philosophy of science is best for everyone, and instead begin investigating which philosophy of science is best for specific people, with specific values, in specific contexts. I illustrate how this might be done by briefly sketching a single case study from the history of science, which seems to show that different philosophies of science are better at motivating different forms of scientific practice
Keywords Scientific realism  Constructive empiricism  Scientific practice  Philosophy of science  Voluntarism  Epistemology  Epistemic stances
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-016-1015-2
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References found in this work BETA

How the Laws of Physics Lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - Oxford University Press.
What Do Philosophers Believe?David Bourget & David J. Chalmers - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 170 (3):465-500.
The Fate of Knowledge.Helen E. Longino - 2002 - Princeton University Press.
The Meaning of 'Meaning'.Hillary Putnam - 1975 - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 7:131-193.

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Citations of this work BETA

Motives for Research.Arthur Fine - 2018 - Spontaneous Generations 9 (1):42-45.
Editor's Introduction.Curtis Forbes - 2018 - Spontaneous Generations 9 (1):1-11.

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