The non-miraculous success of formal analogies in quantum theories

In Steven French & Juha Saatsi (eds.), Scientific Realism and the Quantum. Oxford University Press (2020)
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Abstract

The Higgs model was developed using purely formal analogies to models of superconductivity. This is in contrast to historical case studies such as the development of electromagnetism, which employed physical analogies. As a result, quantum case studies such as the development of the Higgs model carry new lessons for the scientific realism--anti-realism debate. I argue that, by breaking the connection between success and approximate truth, the use of purely formal analogies is a counterexample to two prominent versions of the 'No Miracles' Argument for scientific realism, Psillos' refined explanationist defence of realism and the Argument from History of Science for structural realism. The NMA is undermined, but the success of the Higgs model is not miraculous because there is a naturalistically acceptable explanation for its success that does not invoke approximate truth. I also suggest some possible strategies for adapting to the counterexample for scientific realists who wish to hold on to the NMA in some form.

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Doreen Fraser
University of Waterloo

Citations of this work

Learning from Non-Causal Models.Francesco Nappo - 2022 - Erkenntnis 87 (5):2419-2439.
Close encounters with scientific analogies of the third kind.Francesco Nappo - 2021 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 11 (3):1-20.
Reductive Explanation and the Construction of Quantum Theories.Benjamin H. Feintzeig - 2022 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 73 (2):457-486.

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