ScientificRealism is the optimistic view that modern science is on the right track: that the world really is the way our best scientific theories describe it to be. In his book, Stathis Psillos gives us a detailed and comprehensive study, which restores the intuitive plausibility of scientificrealism. We see that throughout the twentieth century, scientificrealism has been challenged by philosophical positions from all angles: from reductive empiricism, to instrumentalism and modern (...) skeptical empiricism. ScientificRealism explains that the history of science does not undermine the notion of scientificrealism, and instead makes it reasonable to accept scientific as the best philosophical account of science, its empirical success, its progress and its practice. Anyone wishing to gain a deeper understanding of the state of modern science and why scientificrealism is plausible, should read this book. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to revisit the phlogiston theory to see what can be learned from it about the relationship between scientificrealism, approximate truth and successful reference. It is argued that phlogiston theory did to some extent correctly describe the causal or nomological structure of the world, and that some of its central terms can be regarded as referring. However, it is concluded that the issue of whether or not theoretical terms successfully refer is not (...) the key to formulating the appropriate form of scientificrealism in response to arguments from theory change, and that the case of phlogiston theory is shown to be readily accommodated by ontic structural realism. (shrink)
Stanford, in Exceeding Our Grasp , presents a powerful version of the pessimistic meta-induction. He claims that theories typically have empirically inequivalent but nonetheless well-confirmed, serious alternatives which are unconceived. This claim should be uncontroversial. But it alone is no threat to scientificrealism. The threat comes from Stanford’s further crucial claim, supported by historical examples, that a theory’s unconceived alternatives are “radically distinct” from it; there is no “continuity”. A standard realist reply to the meta-induction is that (...) past failures do not imply present ones because present theories are more successful than past ones. I have preferred to emphasize that present methodology is better than past ones. Stanford’s response to the standard reply is surprisingly brief and inadequate. He defends the inference from the uncontroversial claim but not that from the crucial one. He does not show that past discontinuity implies present discontinuity. Realism survives. (shrink)
Scientificrealism and anti-realism are most frequently discussed as global theses: theses that apply equally well across the board to all the various sciences. Against this status quo I defend the localist alternative, a methodological stance on scientificrealism that approaches debates on realism at the level of individual sciences, rather than at science itself. After identifying the localist view, I provide a number of arguments in its defense, drawing on the diversity and disunity (...) found in the sciences, as well as problems with other approaches (such as basing realism debates on the aim of science). I also show how the view is already at work, explicitly or implicitly, in the work of several philosophers of science. After meeting the objections that localism collapses either into globalism or hyperlocalism, I conclude by sketching what sorts of impacts localism can have in the philosophy of science. (shrink)
This paper investigates the nature of scientificrealism. I begin by considering the anomalous fact that Bas van Fraassen’s account of scientificrealism is strikingly similar to Arthur Fine’s account of scientific non-realism. To resolve this puzzle, I demonstrate how the two theorists understand the nature of truth and its connection to ontology, and how that informs their conception of the realism debate. I then argue that the debate is much better captured by (...) the theory of truthmaking, and not by any particular theory of truth. To be a scientific realist is to adopt a realism-relevant account of what makes true the scientific theories one accepts. The truthmaking approach restores realism’s metaphysical core—distancing itself from linguistic conceptions of the debate—and thereby offers a better characterization of what is at stake in the question of scientificrealism. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that the ultimate argument for ScientificRealism, also known as the No-Miracles Argument (NMA), ultimately fails as an abductive defence of Epistemic ScientificRealism (ESR), where (ESR) is the thesis that successful theories of mature sciences are approximately true. The NMA is supposed to be an Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE) that purports to explain the success of science. However, the explanation offered as the best explanation for success, namely (ESR), (...) fails to yield independently testable predictions that alternative explanations for success do not yield. If this is correct, then there seems to be no good reason to prefer (ESR) over alternative explanations for success. (shrink)
According to the “no-miracles argument” (NMA), truth is the best explanation of the predictive-instrumental success of scientific theories. A standard objection against NMA is that it is viciously circular. In ScientificRealism: How Science Tracks Truth Stathis Psillos has claimed that the circularity objection can be met when NMA is supplemented with a reliabilist approach to justification. I will try to show, however, that scientific realists cannot take much comfort from this policy: if reliabilism makes no (...) qualifications about the domain where inference to the best explanation is reliable, scientific realists flagrantly beg the question. A qualified version of reliabilism, on the other side, does not entitle us to infer the realist conclusion. I conclude, then, that Psillos’s proposal does not make any significant progress for scientificrealism. (shrink)
Extensional scientificrealism is the view that each believable scientific theory is supported by the unique first-order evidence for it and that if we want to believe that it is true, we should rely on its unique first-order evidence. In contrast, intensional scientificrealism is the view that all believable scientific theories have a common feature and that we should rely on it to determine whether a theory is believable or not. Fitzpatrick argues that (...) extensional realism is immune, while intensional realism is not, to the pessimistic induction. I reply that if extensional realism overcomes the pessimistic induction at all, that is because it implicitly relies on the theoretical resource of intensional realism. I also argue that extensional realism, by nature, cannot embed a criterion for distinguishing between believable and unbelievable theories. (shrink)
The semantic view of theories is normally considered to be an ac-count of theories congenial to ScientificRealism. Recently, it has been argued that Ontic Structural Realism could be fruitfully applied, in combination with the semantic view, to some of the philosophical issues peculiarly related to bi-ology. Given the central role that models have in the semantic view, and the relevance that mathematics has in the definition of the concept of model, the fo-cus will be on population (...) genetics, which is one of the most mathematized areas in biology. We will analyse some of the difficulties which arise when trying to use Ontic Structural Realism to account for evolutionary biology. (shrink)
Scientificrealism is the position that the aim of science is to advance on truth and increase knowledge about observable and unobservable aspects of the mind-independent world which we inhabit. This book articulates and defends that position. In presenting a clear formulation and addressing the major arguments for scientificrealism Sankey appeals to philosophers beyond the community of, typically Anglo-American, analytic philosophers of science to appreciate and understand the doctrine. The book emphasizes the epistemological aspects of (...)scientificrealism and contains an original solution to the problem of induction that rests on an appeal to the principle of uniformity of nature. (shrink)
Pragmatic ScientificRealism (PSR) urges us to take up the realist aim or the goal of truth although we have good reason to think that the goal can neither be attained nor approximated. While Newton-Smith thinks that pursuing what we know we cannot achieve is clearly irrational, Rescher disagrees and contends that pursuing an unreachable goal can be rational on pragmatic grounds—if in pursuing the unreachable goal one can get indirect benefits. I have blocked this attempt at providing (...) a pragmatic justification for the realist aim of PSR on precisely the same pragmatic grounds—since there is a competing alternative to PSR, and the alternative can provide whatever indirect benefits PSR can offer while being less risky than it is, prudential reasoning favours the alternative to PSR. This undermines the pragmatic case for the realist aim of science since the instrumentalist alternative does not aim at the truth. (shrink)
Economists customarily talk about the ‘realism’ of economic models and of their assumptions and make descriptive and prescriptive judgements about them: this model has more realism in it than that, the realism of assumptions does not matter, and so on. This is not the way philosophers mostly use the term ‘realism’ thus there is a major terminological discontinuity between the two disciplines. The following remarks organise and critically elaborate some of the philosophical usages of the term (...) and show some of the ways in which they relate to economists’ concerns. In the philosophy of science, scientificrealism is the mainstream position – or rather a heterogeneous collection of positions - that includes ideas about the nature of scientific theories and how they are related to the real world and about the goals and achievements of scientific inquiry. However, most of what philosophers have contributed around these ideas is not designed to deal with the peculiarities of economics, thus some important adjustments are needed to make scientificrealism an interesting position for economists. (shrink)
Scientific realists believe both what a scientific theory says about observables and unobservables. In contrast, scientific antirealists believe what a scientific theory says about observables, but not about unobservables. I argue that scientificrealism is a more useful doctrine than scientific antirealism in science classrooms. If science teachers are antirealists, they are caught in Moore’s paradox when they help their students grasp the content of a scientific theory, and when they explain a (...) phenomenon in terms of a scientific theory. Teachers ask questions to their students to check whether they have grasped the content of a scientific theory. If the students are antirealists, they are also caught in Moore’s paradox when they respond positively to their teachers’ questions, and when they explain a phenomenon in terms of a scientific theory. Finally, neither teachers nor students can understand phenomena in terms of scientific theories, if they are antirealists. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that Poincaré’s acceptance of the atom does not indicate a shift from instrumentalism to scientificrealism. I examine the implications of Poincaré’s acceptance of the existence of the atom for our current understanding of his philosophy of science. Specifically, how can we understand Poincaré’s acceptance of the atom in structural realist terms? I examine his 1912 paper carefully and suggest that it does not entail scientificrealism in the sense of acceptance (...) of the fundamental existence of atoms but rather, argues against fundamental entities. I argue that Poincaré’s paper motivates a non-fundamentalist view about the world, and that this is compatible with his structuralism. (shrink)
This paper considers the relationship between science and common sense. It takes as its point of departure, Eddington’s distinction between the table of physics and the table of common sense, as well as Eddington’s suggestion that science shows common sense to be false. Against the suggestion that science shows common sense to be false, it is argued that there is a form of common sense, basic common sense, which is not typically overthrown by scientific research. Such basic common sense (...) is strongly confirmed by our everyday experience and may itself serve as the basic for scientificrealism. (shrink)
ScientificRealism (SR) has three crucial aspects: 1) the centrality of the concept of truth, 2) the idea that success is a reliable indicator of truth, and 3) the idea that the Inference to the Best Explanation is a reliable inference rule. It will be outlined how some realists try to overcome the difficulties which arise in justifying such crucial aspects relying on an adaptationist view of evolutionism, and why such attempts are inadequate. Finally, we will briefly sketch (...) some of the main difficulties the realist has to face in defending those crucial aspects, and how such difficulties are deeply related: they derive from the inability of SR to satisfyingly avoid the sceptical challenge of the criterion of truth. Indeed, SR seems not to be able to fill the so-called ‘epistemic gap’ (Sankey 2008). In fact, the epistemic gap cannot be filled in no way other than obtaining a criterion of truth, but such a criterion cannot be obtained if the epistemic gap obtains. (shrink)
Confirmational holism is central to a traditional formulation of the indispensability argument for mathematical realism (IA). I argue that recent strategies for defending scientificrealism are incompatible with confirmational holism. Thus a traditional formulation of IA is incompatible with recent strategies for defending scientificrealism. As a consequence a traditional formulation of IA will only have limited appeal.
In this paper I argue that aim-oriented empiricism provides decisive grounds for accepting scientificrealism and rejecting instrumentalism. But it goes further than this. Aim-oriented empiricism implies that physicalism is a central part of current (conjectural) scientific knowledge. Furthermore, we can and need, I argue, to interpret fundamental physical theories as attributing necessitating physical properties to fundamental physical entities.
The aim of this essay is to argue for a new version of ‘inference-to-the-best-explanation’ scientificrealism, which I characterize as Best Theory Realism or ‘BTR’. On BTR, the realist needs only to embrace a commitment to the truth or approximate truth of the best theories in a field, those which are unique in satisfying the highest standards of empirical success in a mature field with many successful but falsified predecessors. I argue that taking our best theories to (...) be true is justified because it provides the best explanation of the predictive success of their predecessors and their own special success. Against standard and especially structural realism, I argue against the claim that the best explanations of the success of theories is provided by identifying their true components, such as structural relations between unobservable, which are preserved across theory change. In particular, I criticize Ladyman's and Carrier’s structural account of the success of phlogiston theory, and Worrall's well-known structural account of the success of Fresnel’s theory of light. I argue that these accounts tacitly assume the truth of our best theories, which in any case provides a better explanation of these theories’ success than the structural account. Structural realism is now defended as the only version of realism that is able to surmount the pessimistic meta-induction and the general problem that successful theories involve ontological claims concerning unobservable entities that are abandoned and falsified in theory-change. I argue that Best Theory Realism can overcome the pessimistic meta-induction and this general problem posed by theory-change. Our best theories possess a characteristic which sharply distinguishes them from their successful but false predecessors. Furthermore ‘inference-to-the-best-explanation’ confirmation can establish the truth of our best theories and thus trumps the pessimistic inductive reasoning which is supposed to show that even our best theories are most likely false in their claims concerning unobservable entities and processes. (shrink)
The scientificrealism debate has now reached an entirely new level of sophistication. Faced with increasingly focused challenges, epistemic scientific realists have appropriately revised their basic meta-hypothesis that successful scientific theories are approximately true: they have emphasized criteria that render realism far more selective and, so, plausible. As a framework for discussion, I use what I take to be the most influential current variant of selective epistemic realism, deployment realism. Toward the identification of (...) new case studies that challenge this form of realism, I break away from the standard list and look to the history of celestial mechanics, with an emphasis on twentieth century advances. I then articulate two purely deductive arguments that, I argue, properly capture the historical threat to realism. I contend that both the content and form of these novel challenges seriously threaten selective epistemic realism. I conclude on a positive note, however, arguing for selective realism at a higher level. Even in the face of threats to its epistemic tenet, scientificrealism need not be rejected outright: concern with belief can be bracketed while nonetheless advocating core realist tenets. I show that, in contrast with epistemic deployment realism, a purely axiological scientificrealism can account for key scientific practices made salient in my twentieth century case studies. And embracing the realists favored account of inference, inference to the best explanation, while pointing to a set of the most promising alternative selective realist meta-hypothesis, I show how testing the latter can be immensely valuable to our understanding of science. (shrink)
At stake in the classical realism-debate is the clash between realist and anti-realist positions. In recent years, the classical form of this debate has undergone a double transformation. On the one hand, the champions of realism began to pay more attention to the interpretative dimensions of scientific research. On the other hand, anti-realists of various sorts realized that the rejection of the hypostatization of a “reality out there” does not imply the denial of working out a philosophically (...) adequate concept of reality. Against the background of this double transformation, new arguments in the realism-debate emerged. The present Introduction is an attempt at systematizing these arguments within the spectrum of doctrines between the poles of scientificrealism (exposed and defended by Howard Sankey) and hermeneutic realism (advocated by Dimitri Ginev). The authors try also to demonstrate that after the classical debates the issue of scientism has to be addressed in new ways. (shrink)
The scientific study of emotion has been characterized by classification schemes that propose to 'carve nature at the joints.' This article examines several of these classifications, drawn from both the categorical and dimensional perspectives. Each classification is given credit for what it contributes to our understanding, but the dream of a single, all purpose taxonomy of emotional phenomena is called into question. Such hopes are often associated with the carving at the joints metaphor, which is here argued to be (...) harmful to scientificrealism, and better rejected in favor of a pragmatic approach. Questioning the mere discovery theory of scientific progress, I argue that psychologists discover facts about their domain of study, but have to decide how to classify them. 2012 APA, all rights reserved). (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to articulate, discuss in detail and criticise Reichenbach's sophisticated and complex argument for scientificrealism. Reichenbach's argument has two parts. The first part aims to show how there can be reasonable belief in unobservable entities, though the truth of claims about them is not given directly in experience. The second part aims to extent the argument of the first part to the case of realism about the external world, conceived of as (...) a world of independently existing entities distinct from sensations. It is argued that the success of the first part depends on a change of perspective, where unobservable entities are viewed as projective complexes vis-à-vis their observable symptoms, or effects. It is also argued that there is an essential difference between the two parts of the argument, which Reichenbach comes (somewhat reluctantly) to accept. (shrink)
The most promising contemporary form of epistemic scientificrealism is based on the following intuition: Belief should be directed, not toward theories as wholes, but toward particular theoretical constituents that are responsible for, or deployed in, key successes. While the debate on deployment realism is quite fresh, a significant degree of confusion has already entered into it. Here I identify five criteria that have sidetracked that debate. Setting these distractions aside, I endeavor to redirect the attention of (...) both realists and non-realists to the fundamental intuition above. In more detail: I show that Stathis Psillos (1999) has offered an explicit criterion for picking out particular constituents, which, contrary to Kyle Stanford’s (2006a) criticisms, neither assumes the truth of theories nor requires hindsight. I contend, however, that, in Psillos’s case studies, Psillos has not successfully applied his explicit criterion. After clarifying the various alternative criteria at work (in those case studies and in a second line of criticism offered by Stanford), I argue that, irrespective of Stanford’s criticisms, the explicit criterion Psillos does offer is not an acceptable one. Nonetheless, the deployment realist’s fundamental intuition withstands all of these challenges. In closing, I point in a direction toward which I’ve elsewhere focused, suggesting that, despite the legitimacy and applicability of the deployment realist’s intuition, the historical threat that prompted it remains. (shrink)
This paper seeks to show that the turn toward local scientific practices in the philosophy of science is not a turn away from transcendental investigations. On the contrary, a pragmatist approach can very well be (re)connected with Kantian transcendental examination of the necessary conditions for the possibility of scientific representation and cognition, insofar as the a priori conditions that transcendental philosophy of science examines are understood as historically relative and thus potentially changing. The issue of scientific (...) class='Hi'>realism will be considered from this perspective, with special emphasis on Thomas Kuhn's conception of paradigms as frameworks making truth-valued scientific statements possible and on Charles S. Peirce's realism about "real generals". (shrink)
It has become apparent that the debate between scientific realists and constructive empiricists has come to a stalemate. Neither view can reasonably claim to be the most rational philosophy of science, exclusively capable of making sense of all scientific activities. On one prominent analysis of the situation, whether we accept a realist or an anti-realist account of science actually seems to depend on which values we antecedently accept, rather than our commitment to “rationality” per se. Accordingly, several philosophers (...) have attempted to argue in favour of scientificrealism or constructive empiricism by showing that one set of values is exclusively best, for anyone and everyone, and that the downstream choice of the philosophy of science which best serves those values is therefore best, for anyone and everyone. These efforts, however, seem to have failed. In response, I suggest that philosophers of science should suspend the effort to determine which philosophy of science is best for everyone, and instead begin investigating which philosophy of science is best for specific people, with specific values, in specific contexts. I illustrate how this might be done by briefly sketching a single case study from the history of science, which seems to show that different philosophies of science are better at motivating different forms of scientific practice. (shrink)
In this paper, the elaboration of the concept of practical realist philosophy of science which began in the author's previous papers is continued. It is argued that practical realism is opposed to standard scientificrealism, on the one hand, and antirealism, on the other. Standard scientificrealism is challengeable due to its abstract character, as being isolated from practice. It is based on a metaphysical-ontological presupposition which raises the problem of the God's Eye point of (...) view (as it was called by Hilary Putnam). Joseph Rouse's conception of science as practice, Sami Pihlström's pragmatic realism, and even Ilkka Niiniluoto's critical scientificrealism are interpreted as practical realist conceptions. Pihlström suggests that the contemporary scientific realist should be prepared to accept the pragmatically naturalized Kantian transcendental perspective on realism. It is argued, however, that this realistically naturalized Kantianism can be nothing more than practical realism, as originated by Karl Marx. (shrink)
Realism and Russia? Realism is a notion with multiple meanings, so options abound as to how the two might connect with one another. An old Russian proverb conveys a realist message about social properties: "An individual in Rssia was composed of three parts: a body, a soul, and a passport." (Ruben 1985, 83) Having a passport signals the possession of a complex set of social properties, and if these are taken to be real in some appropriate sense, one (...) is inplying a realist view in social ontology. In another sense of the word, realism is a live issues in the study of international relations. Political realism considers the behaviour of states by emphasizing the importance of national interests and the drive for power on the one hand, and the suppression of moral concerns on the other (e.g. Donnelly 2000). Russian realists hold diverse views about the newly emerged unipolar global power structure and Russia's proper strategy for adjusting to this structure (e.g. Shakleyina and Bogaturov 2004). Realism is a family of viewpoints also in the arts (including painting, music and literature) and their study. Socialist realism is a version that used to be an official doctrine in Russia, gently requesting artists to optimistically represent society's march towards communism, glorifying the heroic role of the proletariat in driving the process. Socialist realism was also well known elsewhere. So much so that in the 1970s, a philosophy professor at the University of Helsinki announced to give a lecture course on "scientificrealism" but on its way to the university catalogue through the university administration, the title of the course was transformed into "socialist realism". In the spirit of rectifying that old administrative mistake, the remards to follow deal with scientifit realism as a philosophy of science. The general issue to be addressed is how the social sciences relate to the social world, in both directions. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to evaluate Lange’s argument in support of Sellars’ scientificrealism, which, if successful, surprisingly, undermines Sellars’ scientia mensura principle and justifies the anti-Sellarsian view to the effect that certain domains of discourse which use irreducibly normative descriptions and explanations are explanatorily autonomous. It will be argued that Lange’s argument against the layer-cake view is not strictly speaking Sellarsian, since Lange interprets Sellars’ argument in an overly abstract or formal manner. Moreover, I will (...) suggest that, within a properly Sellarsian context, Lange’s argument against the layer-cake picture can actually be used for quite un- Langean purposes, namely in order to show that folk- psychological descriptions and explanations are not if fact autonomous. However, Lange could insist that his reconstruction of Sellars’ argument is substantially correct and he does have the resources to do so. I will propose that the substantial issue between Lange and Sellars turns on their different views on the function of ceteris-paribus clauses, and ultimately, on issues about the unity of science. Finally, it will be suggested that the Sellarsian framework for tackling these issues constitutes a viable alternative to Lange’s picture of theoretical explanation, while at the same time incorporating be the sound insights of the latter. (shrink)
In "ScientificRealism" I lay out the debate between scientificrealism and nonrealism, developing arguments for the respective positions,assessing the views, and ultimately defending realism on the grounds that nonrealists fail to provide an explanation for why science and its predictions work.
This paper discusses an argument for scientificrealism put forward by Anthony Quinton in The Nature of Things. The argument – here called the controlled continuity argument – seems to have received no attention in the literature, apparently because it may easily be mistaken for a better-known argument, Grover Maxwell’s “argument from the continuum”. It is argued here that, in point of fact, the two are quite distinct and that Quinton’s argument has several advantages over Maxwell’s. The controlled (...) continuity argument is also compared to Ian Hacking’s “argument from coincidence”. It is pointed out that both arguments are to a large extent independent from considerations about high-level scientific theories, and that both are abductive arguments at the core. But these similarities do not dilute an important difference related to the fact that Quinton’s argument cleverly seeks to anchor belief in unobservable entities in realism about ordinary objects, which is a position shared by most contemporary scientific anti-realists. (shrink)
In a series of influential articles, the anti-realist Arthur Fine has repeatedly charged that a certain very popular argument for scientificrealism, that only realism can explain the instrumental success of science, begs the question. I argue that on no plausible reading ofthe fallacy does the realist argument beg the question. In fact, Fine is himself guilty of what DeMorgan called the "opponent fallacy.".
In order to examine the fit between realism and science, one needs to address two issues: the unit of science question (realism about which parts of science?) and the contents of realism question (which realism about science?). Answering these questions is a matter of conceptual and empirical inquiry by way local case studies. Instead of the more ordinary abstract and global scientificrealism, what we get is a doubly local scientificrealism based (...) on a bottom-up strategy. Representative formulations of the former kind are in terms of the truth and reality of the posits of current science, in terms of warranted belief, in terms of mind-independent unobservable entities. Using illustrations mainly from the social sciences, doubly local scientificrealism denies the global applicability of such formulations and seeks to make adjustments in their elements in response to information about local units of science: It is sufficient for a realist to give the existence of an entity (and the truth of a theory) a chance, while in some areas we may be in s position to make justified claims about actual existence (and truth). Logical inquiry-independent existence is sufficient for the social and human sciences, while mind-independence will be fine for many other domains. It should not be insisted that the theoretical posits of realist science be strict unobservables in all areas: most theoretical posits of the social sciences are idealized commonsensibles, such as elements in folk psychology. Unsurprisingly, this sort of local strategy will create space for realism that is able to accommodate larger areas of science without sacrificing traditional realist intuitions. (shrink)
Philip Kitcher’s account of scientificrealism in 'The Advancement of Science' (AS) differs from his account in 'Science, Truth and Democracy' (STD). We demonstrate that (1) contrary to appearance, Kitcher in AS proposes a so-called Kantian realism that is accompanied not by a correspondence theory, but by a hybrid conception of truth. (2) Also, we point out that Kitcher does not pertain to the “promiscuous realism” proposed in STD stringently, but falls back on his Kantian (...) class='Hi'>realism of AS at points. Here, we question Kitcher’s claim that his promiscuous-realist conception stems initially from commonsensical be-liefs. (shrink)
Perspectivism is often understood as a conception according to which subjective conditions inevitably affect our knowledge and, therefore, we are never confronted with reality and facts but only with interpretations. Hence, subjectivism and anti-realism are usually associated with perspectivism. The thesis of this paper is that, especially in the case of the sciences, perspectivism can be better understood as an appreciation of the cognitive attitude that consists in considering reality only from a certain ‘point of view’, in a way (...) that can avoid subjectivism. Whereas the way of conceiving a notion is strictly subjective, the way of using it is open to intersubjective agreement, based on the practice of operations whose nature is neither mental nor linguistic. Therefore, intersubjectivity is possible within perspectivism. Perspectivism can also help understand the notion of ‘scientific objects’ in a referential sense: they are those ‘things’ that become ‘objects’ of a certain science by being investigated from the ‘point of view’ of that science. They are ‘clipped out’ of things by means of standardized operations which turn out to be the same as those granting intersubjectivity. Therefore this ‘strong’ sense of objectivity, which is clearly realist, coincides with the ‘weak’ one. The notion of truth appears fully legitimate in the case of the sciences, being clearly defined for the regional ontology of each one of them and, since this truth can be extended in an analogical sense to the theories elaborated in each science, it follows that are real also the unobservable entities postulated by those theories. (shrink)
Theories of partial reference have been developed in order to retrospectively interpret rather stubborn past scientific theories like Newtonian dynamics and the phlogiston theory in a realist way, i.e., as approximately true. This is done by allowing for a term to refer to more than one entity at the same time and by providing semantic structures that determine the truth values of sentences containing partially referring terms. Two versions of theories of partial reference will be presented, a conjunctive (by (...) Hartry Field, 1973) and a disjunctive one (by Christina McLeish, 2006). In this paper, I will analyze them with regard to modal and epistemic aspects of those theories. It will be argued that a) theories of partial reference are (surprisingly) compatible with the rigidity of natural kind terms but face a weaker form of the so called “no-failures-of-reference-problem” and b) that the disjunctive account of partial reference suffers from a serious weakness: the impossibility of discriminating between descriptions that fix the reference of a term and those merely associated with it leads to the unacceptable result that past scientific theories containing such partially referring terms will come out as epistemically necessary, i.e., as a priori true. (shrink)
Realists about science tend to hold that our scientific theories aim for the truth, that our successful theories are at least partly true, and that the entities referred to by the theoretical terms of these theories exist. Antirealists about science deny one or more of these claims. A sizable minority of philosophers of science prefers not to take sides: they believe the realism debate to be fundamentally mistaken and seek to abstain from it altogether. In analogy with other (...)realism debates I will call these philosophers quietists. In the philosophy of science quietism often takes a somewhat peculiar form, which I will call naturalistic quietism. In this paper I will characterize Maddy’s Second Philosophy as a form of naturalistic quietism, and show what the costs for making it feasible are. (shrink)
This paper is concerned with connections between scientific and metaphysical realism. It is not difficult to show that scientificrealism, as expounded by Psillos (1999) clearly qualifies as a kind of metaphysical realism in the sense of Putnam (1980). The statement of scientificrealism therefore must not only deal with underdetermination and the dynamics of scientific theories but also answer the semantic challenges to metaphysical realism. As will be argued, the common (...) core of these challenges is the proposition that a (metaphysical) realist semantics leads to semantic agnosticism in the sense that we are unable to grasp the proper meanings and referents of our linguistic expressions. Having established this, I will focus more specifically on the question of whether scientificrealism—in its state-of-the-art account—has the resources to make reference to scientific concepts intelligible such that the semantic challenges can be answered. (shrink)
In this three-part paper, my concern is to expound and defend a conception of science, close to Einstein's, which I call aim-oriented empiricism. I argue that aim-oriented empiricsim has the following virtues. (i) It solve the problem of induction; (ii) it provides decisive reasons for rejecting van Fraassen's brilliantly defended but intuitively implausible constructive empiricism; (iii) it solves the problem of verisimilitude, the problem of explicating what it can mean to speak of scientific progress given that science advances from (...) one false theory to another; (iv) it enables us to hold that appropriate scientific theories, even though false, can nevertheless legitimately be interpreted realistically, as providing us with genuine , even if only approximate, knowledge of unobservable physical entities; (v) it provies science with a rational, even though fallible and non-mechanical, method for the discovery of fundamental new theories in physics. In the third part of the paper I show that Einstein made essential use of aim-oriented empiricism in scientific practice in developing special and general relativity. I conclude by considering to what extent Einstein came explicitly to advocate aim-oriented empiricism in his later years. (shrink)
Three influential forms of realism are distinguished and interrelated: realism about the external world, construed as a metaphysical doctrine; scientificrealism about non-observable entities postulated in science; and semantic realism as defined by Dummett. Metaphysical realism about everyday physical objects is contrasted with idealism and phenomenalism, and several potent arguments against these latter views are reviewed. -/- Three forms of scientificrealism are then distinguished: (i) scientific theories and their existence postulates (...) should be taken literally; (ii) the existence of unobservable entities posited by our most successful scientific theories is justified scientifically; and (iii) our best current scientific theories are at least approximately true. It is argued that only some form of scientificrealism can make proper sense of certain episodes in the history of science. -/- Finally, Dummett’s influential formulation of semantic issues about realism considered. Dummett argued that in some cases, the fundamental issue is not about the existence of entities, but rather about whether statements of some specified class (such as mathematics) have an objective truth value, independently of our means of knowing it. Dummett famously argued against such semantic realism and in favor of anti-realism. The relation of semantic realism to the metaphysical construal of realism and Dummett’s main argument against semantic realism is examined. (shrink)
Prediction Error Minimization theory (PEM) is one of the most promising attempts to model perception in current science of mind, and it has recently been advocated by some prominent philosophers as Andy Clark and Jakob Hohwy. Briefly, PEM maintains that “the brain is an organ that on aver-age and over time continually minimizes the error between the sensory input it predicts on the basis of its model of the world and the actual sensory input” (Hohwy 2014, p. 2). An interesting (...) debate has arisen with regard to which is the more adequate epistemological interpretation of PEM. Indeed, Hohwy maintains that given that PEM supports an inferential view of perception and cognition, PEM has to be considered as conveying an internalist epistemological perspective. Contrary to this view, Clark maintains that it would be incorrect to interpret in such a way the indirectness of the link between the world and our inner model of it, and that PEM may well be combined with an externalist epistemological perspective. The aim of this paper is to assess those two opposite interpretations of PEM. Moreover, it will be suggested that Hohwy’s position may be considerably strengthened by adopting Carlo Cellucci’s view on knowledge (2013). (shrink)
This paper aims to cast light on the reasons that explain the shift of opinion—from scepticism to realism—concerning the reality of atoms and molecules in the beginning of the twentieth century, in light of Jean Perrin’s theoretical and experimental work on the Brownian movement. The story told has some rather interesting repercussions for the rationality of accepting the reality of explanatory posits. Section 2 presents the key philosophical debate concerning the role and status of explanatory hypotheses c. 1900, focusing (...) on the work of Duhem, Stallo, Ostwald, Poincaré and Boltzmann. Section 3 examines in detail Perrin’s theoretical account of the molecular origins of Brownian motion, reconstructs the structure and explains the strength of Perrin’s argument for the reality of molecules. Section 4 draws three important lessons for the current debate over scientificrealism. (shrink)
Following on from Roy Bhaskar’s first two books, A Realist Theory of Science and The Possibility of Naturalism, ScientificRealism and Human Emancipation, establishes the conception of social science as explanatory—and thence emancipatory—critique. _Scientific Realism and Human Emancipation_ starts from an assessment of the impasse of contemporary accounts of science as stemming from an incomplete critique of positivism. It then proceeds to a systematic exposition of scientificrealism in the form of transcendental realism, highlighting (...) a conception of science as explanatory of a structured, differentiated and changing world. Turning to the social domain, the book argues for a view of the social order as conditioned by, and emergent from, nature. Advocating a critical naturalism, the author shows how the transformational model of social activity together with the conception of social science as explanatory critique which it entails, resolves the divisions and dualisms besetting orthodox social and normative theory: between society and the individual, structure and agency, meaning and behavior, mind and body, reason and cause, fact and value, and theory and practice. The book then goes on to discuss the emancipatory implications of social science and sketches the nature of the depth investigation characteristically entailed. In the highly innovative third part of the book Roy Bhaskar completes his critique of positivism by developing a theory of philosophical discourse and ideology, on the basis of the transcendental realism and critical naturalism already developed, showing how positivism functions as a restrictive ideology of and for science and other social practices. (shrink)
Leplin attempts to reinstate the common sense idea that theoretical knowledge is achievable, indeed that its achievement is part of the means to progress in empirical knowledge. He sketches the genesis of the skeptical position, then introduces his argument for Minimalist ScientificRealism -- the requirement that novel predicitons be explained, and the claim that only realism about scientific theories can explain the importance of novel prediction.
This book comes to the rescue of scientificrealism, showing that reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated. Philosophical realism holds that the aim of a particular discourse is to make true statements about its subject matter. Ilkka Niiniluoto surveys different kinds of realism in various areas of philosophy and then sets out his own critical realist philosophy of science.
In this dissertation, I examine a view called ‘Epistemic Structural Realism’, which holds that we can, at best, have knowledge of the structure of the physical world. Put crudely, we can know physical objects only to the extent that they are nodes in a structure. In the spirit of Occam’s razor, I argue that, given certain minimal assumptions, epistemic structural realism provides a viable and reasonable scientific realist position that is less vulnerable to anti-realist arguments than any (...) of its rivals. (shrink)