Philosophy of Science 49 (4):604-615 (1982)
Many realists have maintained that the success of scientific theories can be explained only if they may be regarded as approximately true. Laurens Laudan has in turn contended that a necessary condition for a theory's being approximately true is that its central terms refer, and since many successful theories of the past have employed central terms which we now understand to be non-referential, realism cannot explain their success. The present paper argues that a realist can adopt a view of reference according to which a theory might plausibly be said to be approximately true even though its central terms do not refer, or alternatively, he may construe reference in such a way as to assign reference to a range of successful older theories which includes Laudan's purported counterexamples
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