The methodological defense of realism scrutinized

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 54:74-79 (2015)
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Abstract

I revisit an older defense of scientific realism, the methodological defense, a defense developed by both Popper and Feyerabend. The methodological defense of realism concerns the attitude of scientists, not philosophers of science. The methodological defense is as follows: a commitment to realism leads scientists to pursue the truth, which in turn is apt to put them in a better position to get at the truth. In contrast, anti-realists lack the tenacity required to develop a theory to its fullest. As a consequence, they are less likely to get at the truth. My aim is to show that the methodological defense is flawed. I argue that a commitment to realism does not always benefit science, and that there is reason to believe that a research community with both realists and anti-realists in it may be better suited to advancing science. A case study of the Copernican Revolution in astronomy supports this claim.

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