Constructive Empiricism and Anti-Realism

PSA Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1988 (1):174-180 (1988)
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Abstract

Van Fraassen stresses two distinct but interrelated themes in The Scientific Image: the semantic view of theories and the epistemic status of unobservables. The first of these could easily be accepted by a scientific realist, and indeed realists like Giere have already adapted it to their purposes. So the specifically empiricist thread in van Fraassen’s philosophy stems from the second.Van Fraassen breaks from tradition in founding his empiricism not on the ontological status of unobservable entities but on the epistemic attitude we take to them. The main points of his position are these:1)The claims of scientific theories, including claims about unobservable entities, are to be taken literally. Theories are not reconstructed so as to remove claims of the existence of unobservable objects.2)Observation is a matter of direct observation by accepted participants in the human scientific community.

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Samuel Mitchell
Mount Holyoke College

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References found in this work

Truth and Other Enigmas.Michael Dummett - 1978 - Philosophical Quarterly 31 (122):47-67.
Space, time, and spacetime.L. Sklar - 1976 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 172 (3):545-555.
Semantic analogy.Lawrence Sklar - 1980 - Philosophical Studies 38 (3):217 - 234.

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