Miracles and Models: Why reports of the death of Structural Realism may be exaggerated

Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 61:125-154 (2007)
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Abstract

What is it reasonable to believe about our most successful scientific theories such as the general theory of relativity or quantum mechanics? That they are true, or at any rate approximately true? Or only that they successfully ‘save the phenomena’, by being ‘empirically adequate’? In earlier work I explored the attractions of a view called Structural Scientific Realism (hereafter: SSR). This holds that it is reasonable to believe that our successful theories are (approximately) structurally correct (and also that this is the strongest epistemic claim about them that it is reasonable to make). In the first part of this paper I shall explain in some detail what this thesis means and outline the reasons why it seems attractive. The second section outlines a number of criticisms that have none the less been brought against SSR in the recent (and as we shall see, in some cases, not so recent) literature; and the third and final section argues that, despite the fact that these criticisms might seem initially deeply troubling (or worse), the position remains viable.

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References found in this work

How to define theoretical terms.David Lewis - 1970 - Journal of Philosophy 67 (13):427-446.
Introduction to Logic.J. Dopp - 1957 - Journal of Symbolic Logic 22 (4):353-354.
The Uses of Experiment.David Gooding, Trevor Pinch & Simon Schaffer - 1992 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 43 (1):99-109.

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