Derek D. Turner
Connecticut College
Scientific realism is fundamentally a view about unobservable things, events, processes, and so on, but things can be unobservable either because they are tiny or because they are past. The familiar abductive arguments for scientific realism lend more justification to scientific realism about the tiny than to realism about the past. This paper examines both the “basic” abductive arguments for realism advanced by philosophers such as Ian Hacking and Michael Devitt, as well as Richard Boyd’s version of the inference to the best explanation of the success of science, and shows that these arguments provide less support to historical than to experimental realism. This is because unobservably tiny things can function both as unifiers of the phenomena and as tools for the production of new phenomena, whereas things in the past can only serve as unifiers of the phenomena. The upshot is that realists must not suppose that by presenting arguments for experimental realism they have thereby defended realism in general.Author Keywords: Author Keywords: Realism; Abduction; Historical science; Hacking; Devitt; Boyd
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1016/j.shpsa.2003.12.012
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 65,578
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

A Confutation of Convergent Realism.Larry Laudan - 1981 - Philosophy of Science 48 (1):19-49.
Explanation and Scientific Understanding.Michael Friedman - 1974 - Journal of Philosophy 71 (1):5-19.
Explanatory Unification and the Causal Structure of the World.Philip Kitcher - 1989 - In Philip Kitcher & Wesley Salmon (eds.), Scientific Explanation. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. pp. 410-505.
A Confutation of Convergent Realism.Larry Laudan - 1980 - In Yuri Balashov & Alexander Rosenberg (eds.), Philosophy of Science: Contemporary Readings. Routledge. pp. 211.
Truth and the Past.Michael Dummett - 2004 - Columbia University Press.

View all 14 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Misleading Observable Analogues in Paleontology.Derek Turner - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 36 (1):175-183.
Paleobiology and Philosophy.Adrian Currie - 2019 - Biology and Philosophy 34 (2):31.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Abduction and Scientific Realism.Ilkka Niiniluoto - 2007 - The Proceedings of the Twenty-First World Congress of Philosophy 12:137-142.
Historical Science, Over- and Underdetermined: A Study of Darwin’s Inference of Origins.Aviezer Tucker - 2011 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 62 (4):805-829.
Real Realism: The Galilean Strategy.Philip Kitcher - 2001 - Philosophical Review 110 (2):151-197.


Added to PP index

Total views
33 ( #334,679 of 2,461,835 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #448,803 of 2,461,835 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes