Methodological realism and modal resourcefulness: out of the web and into the mine

Synthese 192 (11):3443-3462 (2015)
Psillos, Kitcher, and Leplin have defended convergent scientific realism against the pessimistic meta-induction by arguing for the divide et impera strategy. I argue that DEI faces a problem more serious than the pessimistic meta-induction: the problem of accretion. When empirically successful theories and principles are combined, they may no longer make successful predictions or allow for accurate calculations, or the combination otherwise may be an empirical failure. The shift from classical mechanics to the new quantum theory does not reflect the discarding of “idle wheels.” Instead, scientists had to contend with new principles that made classical calculations difficult or impossible, and new results that were inconsistent with classical theorems, and that suggested a new way of conceiving of atomic dynamics. In this shift, reference to atoms and to electrons was preserved, but the underlying causal explanations and descriptions of atoms and electrons changed. I propose that the emphasis on accurate description of causal agents as a virtue of background theory be replaced with Ruetsche’s advocacy of pragmatic, modal resourcefulness.
Keywords Scientific realism  Methodology  Causal descriptivism  Entity realism  Convergent realism  Quantum theory
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-015-0917-8
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Naming and Necessity.Saul Kripke - 2010 - In Darragh Byrne & Max Kölbel (eds.), Philosophy. Routledge. pp. 431-433.
A Confutation of Convergent Realism.Larry Laudan - 1981 - Philosophy of Science 48 (1):19-49.
Causality and Explanation.Wesley C. Salmon - 1998 - Oxford University Press.

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