Does Scientific Realism Matter?

Dissertation, Syracuse University (1986)

Authors
Carl Alan Matheson
University of Manitoba
Abstract
The main claim of this work is that scientific realism is of no great use in the philosophy of science. I define scientific realism as the claim that truth is neither to be regarded as an epistemological concept nor to be relativized to conceptual scheme. After clarifying my definition and showing how it relates to other characterizations of realism, I turn to the possible uses of scientific realism in the philosophy of science. Proponents of scientific realism claim that only their position can ensure the possibility of communication between adherents of different scientific theories and that their position provides the best or only explanation for scientific progress. Scientific realists tend to regard these two areas as their position's areas of strength. I show that the scientific realist can solve these problems no better than his opponent. I conclude that if scientific realism is to be embraced as the only acceptable position in the philosophy of science, it will be because anti-realism is incoherent rather than pragmatically inferior
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