What Do We Mean by “True” in Scientific Realism?

Foundations of Science 25 (3):845-856 (2020)
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A crucial aspect of scientific realism is what do we mean by true. In Luk’s theory and model of scientific study, a theory can be believed to be “true” but a model is only accurate. Therefore, what do we mean by a “true” theory in scientific realism? Here, we focus on exploring the notion of truth by some thought experiments and we come up with the idea that truth is related to what we mean by the same. This has repercussion to the repeatability of the experiments and the predictive power of scientific knowledge. Apart from sameness, we also found that truth is related to the granularity of the observation, the limit of detection, the distinguishability of the objects in theory, the simultaneous measurements of objects/processes, the consistencies of the theory and the one-to-one correspondence between terms/events and objects/processes, respectively. While there is no guarantee that we can arrive at the final “true” theory, we have a process/procedure with more and more experiments together with our own ingenuity, to direct us towards such a “true” theory. For quantum mechanics, since a particle is also regarded as a wave, quantum mechanics cannot be considered as a true theory based on the correspondence theory of truth. Failing this, truth may be defined by the coherence theory of truth which is similar to the coherence of beliefs. However, quantum mechanics may not be believed to be a true theory based on the coherence theory of truth because wave properties and particle properties may contradict. Further research is needed to address this problem if we want to regard quantum mechanics as a “true” theory.



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Robert Luk
Hong Kong Polytechnic University

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