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scientific realism vs antirealism

First, our knowledge of the nature of electrons is bound up with our knowledge of their structural relations so that we come to know them together: saying what an electron is includes saying how it is structured; our knowledge of its nature forms a continuum with our knowledge of its structure. Maxwell, G. (1962), “On the Ontological Status of Theoretical Entities”, in H. Feigl and G. Maxwell (eds. The permutation move is so global that no matter what trick X one uses to distinguish reference from reference*, the argument will be redeployed so that if X relates to cats in a way that it does not to cats*, then X* (a permutation of X) will relate to cats* in the same sort of way, and there will be no way of singling out whether we’re referring to X or X*. This is all very hypothetical, but if we somehow knew that scientific realism was correct, then it would give us more faith in our scientific theories describing reality and we'd be more committed to them. (2003a), “Pyrrhic Victories for Scientific Realism”, Journal of Philosophy 100 (11), 553-572. There are rival explanations that are compatible with CE, and some of them are more plausible than realism. I attempt to prove, contrary to what the constructive empiricists believe, that empirical adequacy is harder to come by than approximate truth in the light of the pessimistic induction and the realist responses to it. There are only two contending explanations: SR and Idealism. Second, scientists do not consider themselves bound by a principle that demands that every correlation be explained. IBE is the rule that we should infer the truth of the theory (if there is one) that best explains the phenomena. ), Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science IV, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. (1998), “Semirealism”, Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 29 (3), 391-408. ). (In what follows, T* and T are successor and predecessor theories in a sequence of theories; for example, think of the sequence as ordered under the relation T* succeeds T.)  Both realists and empiricists think of science as being cumulative and progressive. In turn, to know the meaning of an indirectly interpretable T-term is to know its logical connections to directly interpretable terms. (1955), “Posits and Reality”, in W. V. Quine, The Ways of Paradox and Other Essays. Although Tarski’s definition is technically sophisticated, the main points for our purposes are these. A variant of this success-by-design-and-trial-and-error is explanation of success in Darwinian terms: just as the mouse’s running away from its enemy the cat is better explained in Darwinian terms (only flight-successful mice survive and pass their genes along) than in representational terms (the mouse “sees” that the cat is his enemy and therefore runs), so too the instrumental success of science is better explained in Darwinian terms (only the successful theories survive) than in realist terms (they are successful because they are approximately true). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. But can the needed distinction between structure and nature be drawn and can structures be rendered intelligible without the ontology that gives them flesh (Psillos 1995, 1999, 2001)? 2b. Lewis, D. (1984). Fine, A. Why is it legitimate to infer from what we have observed in our spatiotemporally limited surroundings to everything observable but not to what is unobservable (though detectable with reliable instruments or calculable with reliable theories)? Both realists and antirealists accept this core position, but each adds an unnecessary and flawed philosophical interpretation to it. Musgrave, A. Straight induction will not work: we can induce from the observed to the unobserved, because the unobserved can be later observed to check the induction; but we cannot induce to unobservables, because there can be no such independent check (according to the antirealist). CE5 acknowledges that there is instrumental progress without trying to explain it. All questions are “internal” in the sense that they must be formulated in our home language and answered with our standard procedures for gathering and weighing evidence. However, these arguments may be directed at a straw man, since no realist is likely to require that every regularity be explained. Deflationists argue that such “thin” concepts and trivial relations cannot bear the explanatory burdens that scientific realists expect of them. After making a selection, click one of the export format buttons. Realists argue that observed gas behavior is as it is because of underlying molecular behavior; we have reason to believe the molecular hypothesis (by IBE) because it best explains the observed gas behavior. Mach, E. (1893), The Science of Mechanics, trans. But now one must distinguish Obama from electrons so that Obama’s nature is knowable but electrons’ natures are not; the problematic observable-unobservable distinction (§§5a, 6b) has returned. SR is often characterized in terms of two commitments (van Fraassen 1980): SR1     Science aims to give a literally true account of the world. Great theories, such as Newton’s laws, have been proved incorrect. By default, clicking on the export buttons will result in a download of the allowed maximum amount of items. Structuralists can also resist the argument from empirically equivalent theories (§6c)—to the extent that the theories are structurally equivalent they would capture the same structural facts, which is all a theory needs to capture—and do so without embracing a particular realist ontology occupying the nodes of the structure. Friedman, M. (1982), “Review of The Scientific Image”, Journal of Philosophy 79 (5), 274-283. The progress of science asymptotically converges on a true account. Whichever interpretation is correct, the logical positivists clearly began with traditional veil-of-perception worries (§1) and insisted on a distinction that both Hume and Kant advocated—between meaningful science and meaningless metaphysics. Unfortunately, anything we do to specify the correct reference scheme for our language and incorporate it into our total theory is subject to this permutation argument. London: Routledge. The primary argument for this rejection is Putnam’s model-theoretic argument (Merrill 1980; Putnam 1978, 1981). Van Fraassen (1980) proposed constructive empiricism (CE), arguing that we can preserve the epistemological spirit of positivism without subscribing to its letter. I try to show that their critiques of inference to the best explanation backfire on van Fraassen's positive philosophical theories, such as the contextual theory of explanation and constructive empiricism. (2015), ““Atoms Exist” is Probably True, and Other Facts That Should Not Comfort Scientific Realists”, Journal of Philosophy 112 (8), 397-416 . But if the facticity and explanatory components clash in this way, the third component is in trouble also. SR4     Theories are literally true (when they are) partly because their concepts “latch on to” or correspond to real properties (natural kinds, and the like) that causally underpin successful usage of the concepts. REALISM VS. ANTI-REALISM 1) “No miracles” argument: Supports realism. In the late 1970s Putnam came to doubt SR3, reversed his position, and proposed a new program, internal realism (Putnam 1981). Obama is no more an object than electrons are; each is itself a structure; more strongly, everything is structure. For Quine, metaphysical questions are just the most general and abstract questions we ask and are decided on the grounds we use to decide whether electrons exist. The only correct notion of correspondence is the disquotational one: “P” refers to (or is true of) x if and only if x is P. Realist appeals to IBE are problematic for two reasons. In abandoning the notion that scientists search for truth, Kuhn also abandoned scientific realism, thus challenging a defining characteristic of modern science since the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These were all perfectly logical theories, at the … Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (2007), Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized. This traditional form of the distinction between realism and its opposite underwent changes during the 1970s and 1980s, largely due to Michael Dummett’s proposal that realism and antirealism (the latter term being his own coinage) were more productively understood in terms of two opposed theories of meaning. But it is still quite strong: an empirically adequate theory must correctly represent all the phenomena, both observed and unobserved. Logical positivism developed within this scientific context. Moreover, scientists are getting better at doing this—consider improvements in microscopy over the past three centuries. Another prominent argument for scientific anti-realism that /u/MaceWumpus did not mention is known as the pessimistic induction argument. Kyle Stanford’s new induction provides the latest historical challenge to SR (Stanford 2001, 2006, 2015). Roughly, a prediction P (whether known or unexpected) is novel with respect to a theory T if no P-information is needed for the construction of T and no other available theory predicts P. Thus, for example, Newton’s prediction of tidal phenomena was novel because those phenomena were not used in (and not needed for) Newton’s construction of his theory and no other theory predicted the tides (Leplin 1997; Psillos 1999). Laudan, L. (1984), “Realism without the Real”, Philosophy of Science, 51, 156-162. In their day, however, they were revolutionaries, attempting to come to grips with the profound changes that Einstein’s relativity and Bohr’s quantum mechanics had wrought on the worldview of classical physics and to provide firm logical foundations for all science. Let H = “Space is Euclidean” and O = “The measured angle-sum of the triangle equals 180º”. Poincaré (1913) argued that empiricists, realists, and Kantians are wrong: the geometry of physical space is not empirically determinable, factual, or synthetic a priori. But there is always the option of declining to choose, of remaining agnostic. Empiricists attempt to set limits: we should believe only what science tells us about observables. Pessimistic inductions (PI) argue against SR (§7b): the ontology of our current best theories (quarks, for example) will likely be discarded just like that of past best theories (for example, ether). Our experience is limited in many ways, including lacking direct access to: medium-sized events in spatiotemporally remote regions, events involving very small or very large dimensions, very small or very large mass-energy, and so forth. Moreover, if the analytic-synthetic distinction collapses, so too does the positivist separation of metaphysics from science. First is the facticity view of fundamental physical laws: adequate fundamental laws must be (approximately) true. Carnap, R. (1950), “Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology”, Revue Intérnationale de Philosophie 4, 20-40. Hacking, I. [clarification needed]Within philosophy of science, this view is often an answer to the question "how is the success of science to be explained? How could this be, if the radical interpretation of Kuhn were correct? Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. “Real Realism: The Galilean Strategy”, The Philosophical Review 110 (2), 151-197. Moreover, Kuhn argues, an individual’s choice is guided by a mixture of objective (accuracy, and so forth) and subjective (individual preferences like cautiousness and risk-taking, and so forth) factors, the latter influencing her interpretation and weighing of the criteria. Moreover, he lists several properties any theory should have—accuracy (of description of experimental data), consistency (internal and with accepted background theories), scope (T should apply beyond original intended applications), fecundity (T should suggest new research strategies, questions, problems), and simplicity (T should organize complex phenomena in a simple tractable structure). T is empirically adequate if and only if T has an empirical substructure that all observables fit in. More recent responses to these counterexamples attempt to steer a middle course between optimistic inductions like Putnam’s NMA (§5d) and pessimistic inductions like Laudan’s and Stanford’s (§§7b, 11b). During periods of normal science, practitioners subscribe to a paradigm. Duhem, P. (1991/1954/1906), The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory. Second, the “justification” for IBE is two-fold. Poincaré, H. (1913), The Foundations of Science. Clearly H does not entail O without auxiliary assumptions: for example, A1 = “Light travels the shortest Euclidean paths”, A2 = “No physical force appreciably disturbs the light”, A3 = “The triangle is large enough for deviations from rectilinear paths to be experimentally detectable”, and so forth. Traditional examples of such properties are: it has wide scope and precision; it appeals to plausible mechanisms; it is simple, smooth, elegant, and non-ad hoc; and it underwrites contrasts (why this rather than that). The term was coined as an argument against a form of realism Dummett saw as 'colorless reductionism'.. Within a given paradigm P—for example, Newtonian physics—there is a relatively stable background: a world of Newtonian particles moving in space and time subject to Newtonian forces (like gravity) and obeying Newton’s laws. Consider the abstract structure <ω, o, ξ>, where ω is an infinite sequence of objects, o an initial object, and ξ a relation that well-orders the sequence. Oxford: Oxford University Press. The introducer points to an object (or phenomenon) and intones: “let ‘t’ apply to all and only objects that are relevantly similar (same kind, same magnitude) to this sample (or to whatever is the cause of this phenomenon)”. But then Premise 1 becomes: 1A. But the past theorists were generally unable to make these discriminations, so why do we think we can now make them in a reliable manner. Such theorems suggest that Newtonian mechanics yields close to correct answers for applications close to the relativistic limits (not too fast). Cartwright’s own account has three corresponding components. Moreover, realists point out, true-in-the-ideal-theory falls short of true. Are we using our own best theories to determine the core causal properties/descriptions and then “reading” those back into the past discarded theories? Fourth, observation is theory-infected: what we can both observe and employ as evidence is a function of the language, concepts, and theories we possess. This metaphysical picture quickly led to empiricist scruples, voiced by Berkeley and Hume. While their realist colleagues hoped for a unified, explanatorily complete, fundamental theory as the proper aim of science, these global antirealists argued on historical grounds that physics had evolved into its current disorganized mess because it had been driven by the unattainable metaphysical goal of causal explanation. They are positivists because of their pro-science stance; they are logical positivists because they embraced and used the formal logic techniques developed by Frege, Russell, and Wittgenstein to clarify scientific and philosophical language. Because of their hostility to metaphysics, the positivists “diluted” various concepts that have a metaphysical ring. Hardin, C. and A. Rosenburg. etc. But Putnam’s semantics requires more: that there be natural kinds and magnitudes that our terms lock onto, which is SR4. Cartwright rejects all three components. Leeds, S. (1995), “Truth, Correspondence, and Success”, Philosophical Studies 79 (1), 1-36. Copyright © is held by the author. Pragmatists and constructivists react to the inaccessible, unintelligible word-world correspondences posited by realists by pulling back and trying to reformulate the correspondences in terms of some accessible surrogate for truth and reference (§8). Later t-users learn conditions that normally pick out the referent of t, use these conditions to triangulate their usage with that of others and with extra-linguistic conditions, and intend their t-utterances to conform to the t-practices initiated in the introducing event. Deflationists reject SR4 and SR5, but this does not mean they cannot believe what our best scientific theories tell us: deflationists can and typically do accept SR3 as well as all the object-level inferences that science uses, including object-level IBE (Leeds 1995, 2007). Carnap, R. (1956), “The Methodological Character of Theoretical Concepts”, in H. Feigl and M. Scriven (eds), Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science I, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. I have a foundational knowledge of philosophy but Ive never managed to understand the basics of realism vs antirealism debates and why it matters. Field argued that reference should be similarly reduced to physical notions. Van Fraassen’s is an antirealism concerning unobservable entities. So, if we have such an organizing theory for molecules, then we can no more doubt the existence of molecules than we can doubt the existence of ordinary physical bodies (Quine 1955). First, the meaning of any T-term is theory-relative since it is determined by the term’s deductive connections within a theory. First, fundamental laws are non-factive: they describe idealized objects in abstract mathematical models, not natural systems. Scientific Realism and Antirealism Debates about scientific realism concern the extent to which we are entitled to hope or believe that science will tell us what the world is really like. ), The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy Vol. As a result, during the transition, scientists have to learn a new way of seeing and understanding phenomena—Kuhn likens the experience to a “gestalt switch” or “religious conversion”. Suppose that realism and antirealism are defined as the views, respectively, that successful theories are true and empirically adequate.10 10 Extensional realists (Park, 2016a): 47 believe that a scientific theory is true, once they think that scientists’ arguments for it are strong—see Seungbae Park, “Extensional. Truth versus Empirical Adequacy. But if we add this condition to our theory, then we can redeploy a permutation whereby “x causes* P (in W)” will mimic “f-1x causes P (in-M)”; and instead of failing to fix the real reference relation we will be failing to fix the real causal relations. Most physicists continued to be realists: they believed in a deeper reality underlying the phenomena that physics can meaningfully investigate; for them, the pressing foundational problem was to articulate the concepts and develop the laws that applied to that reality. van Fraassen, B. Cartwright, N. (1983), How the Laws of Physics Lie. Structuralism comes from philosophy of mathematics. Tarski showed how to define the concept is true-in-L (where L is a placeholder for some particular language). Proof: Assume there are n individuals in the world W, and our theory T is consistent. Kuhn (1970) was interpreted (wrongly, but with some justice given his sometimes incautious language) as arguing for an extremely radical constructivist/relativist position: P and P* are incommensurable in the sense that they are so radically distinct that they cannot be compared; the P and P* scientists work “in different worlds”, “see different things”, use different maps (theories and conceptual schemes) and also have different rules for map-making (methods), different languages, and different goals and values. Newton’s law of gravitation, FG = Gm1m2/r122, tells us what the gravitational force between two massive bodies is. Churchland, P. (1985), ‘The Ontological Status of Observables: In Praise of the Superempirical Virtues’, in Churchland and Hooker 1985. Pragmatists also tend to supplement Tarski’s understanding of truth, like philosophers in a broadly idealist tradition (including Hume, Kant, the positivists, and Kuhn) who employ truth-surrogates that structure the “world” side of the correspondence relation in some way (impressions, sense data, phenomena, a structured given) that would render the correspondence intelligible. Between 1990 and 2016 new versions of the debates, many focusing on Laudan’s PI (§7b), have emerged. (Kitcher 2001; Liston 1985). More a movement than a position, the positivists adopted a set of philosophical stances: pro-science (including pro-verification and pro-observation) and anti-metaphysics (including anti-cause, anti-explanation, anti-theoretical entities). The kind of account that Cartwright rejects has three main components. Quine thus arrived at a realism not unlike the empirical realism of the logical positivists. However, practice seems Janus-faced here: the history of modern physics is one of disunity leading to unity leading to disunity, and so forth. Stanford proposes a new instrumentalism. If I see nibbled cheese and little black deposits in my kitchen and hear scratching noises in the walls, I reasonably infer that I have mice, because that best explains my evidence. Global vs Local Realism/Anti-realism Here, "global" refers to all of science, and "local" refers to specific scientific theories or disciplines. Niiniluoto, I. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Because they advocated a non-literal interpretation of theories, the positivists are considered to be antirealists. Natural kinds seem to be an unnecessary traditional philosophical apparatus imposed on realism without the support of, and indeed undermined by, science. Theories are literally true (when they are) partly because their concepts “latch on to” or correspond to real properties (natural kinds, and the like) that causally underpin successful usage of the concepts. Trivially, two such theories are empirically equivalent since each has no empirical consequences; so any evidence equally confirms/infirms each. Scientific realism is the view that the universe described by science is real regardless of how it may be interpreted. The positivist may respond that they cannot be directly sensed, and are thus unobservable, but why should being directly sensed be the criterion for epistemological or semantic confidence? Can you identify a specific event to illustrate the changes? But it is conceivable that no amount of human inquiry, even taken to the ideal limit, will decide which; so though one disjunct is true, neither may be assertible in the ideal limit. Why is it legitimate to infer the presence of mice from casual observation of their tell-tale signs but illegitimate to infer the presence of electrons from careful and meticulous observation of their tell-tale ionized cloud-chamber tracks?

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