Reichenbach, Russell and scientific realism

Synthese 199 (3-4):8485-8506 (2021)
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This paper considers how to best relate the competing accounts of scientific knowledge that Russell and Reichenbach proposed in the 1930s and 1940s. At the heart of their disagreements are two different accounts of how to best combine a theory of knowledge with scientific realism. Reichenbach argued that a broadly empiricist epistemology should be based on decisions. These decisions or “posits” informed Reichenbach’s defense of induction and a corresponding conception of what knowledge required. Russell maintained that a scientific realist must abandon empiricism in favor of knowledge of some non-demonstrative principles with a non-empirical basis. After identifying the best versions of realism offered by Reichenbach and Russell, the paper concludes with a brief discussion of the limitations of these two approaches.



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Christopher Pincock
Ohio State University

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