This Introduction has two foci: the first is a discussion of the motivation for and the aims of the 2014 conference on New Thinking about Scientific Realism in Cape Town South Africa, and the second is a brief contextualization of the contributed articles in this special issue of Synthese in the framework of the conference. Each focus is discussed in a separate section.
In this article, against the background of a notion of ‘assembled’ truth, the evolutionary progressiveness of a theory is suggested as novel and promising explanation for the success of science. A new version of realism in science, referred to as ‘naturalised realism’ is outlined. Naturalised realism is ‘fallibilist’ in the unique sense that it captures and mimics the self-corrective core of scientific knowledge and its progress. It is argued that naturalised realism disarms Kyle Stanford’s anti-realist ‘new induction’ threats by showing (...) that ‘explanationism’ and his ‘epistemic instrumentalism’ are just two positions among many on a constantly evolving continuum of options between instrumentalism and full-blown realism. In particular it is demonstrated that not only can naturalised realism redefine the terms of realist debate in such a way that no talk of miracles need enter the debate, but it also promises interesting defenses against inductive- and under-determination-based anti-realist arguments. (shrink)
In this paper, by suggesting a formal representation of science based on recent advances in logic-based Artificial Intelligence (AI), we show how three serious concerns around the realisation of traditional scientific realism (the theory/observation distinction, over-determination of theories by data, and theory revision) can be overcome such that traditional realism is given a new guise as ‘naturalised’. We contend that such issues can be dealt with (in the context of scientific realism) by developing a formal representation of science based on (...) the application of the following tools from Knowledge Representation: the family of Description Logics, an enrichment of classical logics via defeasible statements, and an application of the preferential interpretation of the approach to Belief Revision. (shrink)
Naturalised realism’ is presented as a version of realism which is more compatible with the history of science than convergent or explanationist forms of realism. The account is unpacked according to four theses: 1) Whether realism is warranted with regards to a particular theory depends on the kind and quality of evidence available for that theory; 2) Reference is about causal interaction with the world; 3) Most of science happens somewhere in between instrumentalism and scientific realism on a continuum of (...) stances towards the status of theories; 4) The degree to which realism is warranted has something to do with the degree to which theories successfully refer, rather than with the truth of theories. (shrink)