Discovery, theory change and structural realism

Synthese 179 (3):361 - 376 (2011)
In this paper I consider two accounts of scientific discovery, Robert Hudson's and Peter Achinstein's. I assess their relative success and I show that while both approaches are similar in promising ways, and address experimental discoveries well, they could address the concerns of the discovery sceptic more explicitly than they do. I also explore the implications of their inability to address purely theoretical discoveries, such as those often made in mathematical physics. I do so by showing that extending Hudson's or Achinstein's account to such cases can sometimes provide a misleading analysis about who ought to be credited as a discoverer. In the final sections of the paper I work out some revisions to the Hudson/Achinstein account by drawing from a so-called structural realist view of theory change. Finally, I show how such a modified account of discovery can answer sceptical critics such as Musgrave or Woolgar without producing misleading analyses about who ought to receive credit as a discoverer in cases from the mathematical sciences. I illustrate the usefulness of this approach by providing an analysis of the case of the discovery of the Casimir effect
Keywords Discovery  Hudson  Achinstein  Casimir effect  Structural realism  Semirealism  Scientific realism
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history
Request removal from index
Download options
Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 26,721
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
What is Structural Realism?J. Ladyman - 1998 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 29 (3):409-424.
The Book of Evidence.Peter Achinstein - 2001 - Oxford University Press.

View all 16 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Friedman's Relativised A Priori and Structural Realism: In Search of Compatibility.Milena Ivanova - 2011 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 25 (1):23 - 37.
A Gradualist Theory of Discovery in Ecology.David Castle - 2001 - Biology and Philosophy 16 (4):547-571.
The Process of Discovery.Wei-Min Shen - 1995 - Foundations of Science 1 (2):233-251.
A.I., Scientific Discovery and Realism.Mario Alai - 2004 - Minds and Machines 14 (1):21-42.
Recent Debates Over Structural Realism.Daniel McArthur - 2006 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 37 (2):209 - 224.
Theory Change, Structural Realism, and the Relativised a Priori.Dan McArthur - 2008 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 22 (1):5 – 20.
Discoveries, When and by Whom?Robert G. Hudson - 2001 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 52 (1):75-93.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

69 ( #75,110 of 2,158,842 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

4 ( #86,693 of 2,158,842 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.

Other forums