Two arguments for scientific realism unified

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 41 (2):192-202 (2010)
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Inferences from scientific success to the approximate truth of successful theories remain central to the most influential arguments for scientific realism. Challenges to such inferences, however, based on radical discontinuities within the history of science, have motivated a distinctive style of revision to the original argument. Conceding the historical claim, selective realists argue that accompanying even the most revolutionary change is the retention of significant parts of replaced theories, and that a realist attitude towards the systematically retained constituents of our scientific theories can still be defended. Selective realists thereby hope to secure the argument from success against apparent historical counterexamples. Independently of that objective, historical considerations have inspired a further argument for selective realism, where evidence for the retention of parts of theories is itself offered as justification for adopting a realist attitude towards them. Given the nature of these arguments from success and from retention, a reasonable expectation is that they would complement and reinforce one another, but although several theses purport to provide such a synthesis the results are often unconvincing. In this paper I reconsider the realist’s favoured type of scientific success, novel success, offer a revised interpretation of the concept, and argue that a significant consequence of reconfiguring the realist’s argument from success accordingly is a greater potential for its unification with the argument from retention.Keywords: Scientific realism; Pessimistic meta-induction; Success; Progress; Aether; Novelty.



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David Harker
East Tennessee State University

Citations of this work

Scientific Realism.Anjan Chakravartty - 2011 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Scientific Realism.Richard Boyd - 1984 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 21 (1&2):767-791.
Scientific Realism.Timothy D. Lyons - 2014 - In Paul Humphreys (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Science. New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press. pp. 564-584.

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References found in this work

A confutation of convergent realism.Larry Laudan - 1981 - Philosophy of Science 48 (1):19-49.
What is structural realism?James Ladyman - 1998 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 29 (3):409-424.
A Confutation of Convergent Realism.Larry Laudan - 1980 - In Yuri Balashov & Alexander Rosenberg (eds.), Philosophy of Science: Contemporary Readings. Routledge. pp. 211.

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