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Scientific Realism and the Pessimistic Meta-Modus Tollens

In Steve Clarke & Timothy D. Lyons (eds.), Recent Themes in the Philosophy of Science: Scientific Realism and Commonsense. Dordrecht: Springer. pp. 63-90 (2002)

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  1. Levin and Ghins on the “No Miracle” Argument and Naturalism.Mario Alai - 2012 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 2 (1):85-110.
    On the basis of Levin’s claim that truth is not a scientific explanatory factor, Michel Ghins argues that the “no miracle” argument (NMA) is not scientific, therefore scientific realism is not a scientific hypothesis, and naturalism is wrong. I argue that there are genuine senses of ‘scientific’ and ‘explanation’ in which truth can yield scientific explanations. Hence, the NMA can be considered scientific in the sense that it hinges on a scientific explanation, it follows a typically scientific inferential pattern (IBE), (...)
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  • The Problem of Deep Competitors and the Pursuit of Epistemically Utopian Truths.Timothy D. Lyons - 2011 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 42 (2):317-338.
    According to standard scientific realism, science seeks truth and we can justifiably believe that our successful theories achieve, or at least approximate, that goal. In this paper, I discuss the implications of the following competitor thesis: Any theory we may favor has competitors such that we cannot justifiably deny that they are approximately true. After defending that thesis, I articulate three specific threats it poses for standard scientific realism; one is epistemic, the other two are axiological (that is, pertaining to (...)
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  • Toward a Purely Axiological Scientific Realism.Timothy D. Lyons - 2005 - Erkenntnis 63 (2):167-204.
    The axiological tenet of scientific realism, “science seeks true theories,” is generally taken to rest on a corollary epistemological tenet, “we can justifiably believe that our successful theories achieve (or approximate) that aim.” While important debates have centered on, and have led to the refinement of, the epistemological tenet, the axiological tenet has suffered from neglect. I offer what I consider to be needed refinements to the axiological postulate. After showing an intimate relation between the refined postulate and ten theoretical (...)
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  • Scientific Realism and the Stratagema de Divide Et Impera.Timothy D. Lyons - 2006 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 57 (3):537-560.
    In response to historical challenges, advocates of a sophisticated variant of scientific realism emphasize that theoretical systems can be divided into numerous constituents. Setting aside any epistemic commitment to the systems themselves, they maintain that we can justifiably believe those specific constituents that are deployed in key successful predictions. Stathis Psillos articulates an explicit criterion for discerning exactly which theoretical constituents qualify. I critique Psillos's criterion in detail. I then test the more general deployment realist intuition against a set of (...)
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  • Criteria for Attributing Predictive Responsibility in the Scientific Realism Debate: Deployment, Essentiality, Belief, Retention ….Timothy D. Lyons - 2009 - Human Affairs 19 (2).
    The most promising contemporary form of epistemic scientific realism 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 (...)
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  • Explaining the Success of a Scientific Theory.Timothy D. Lyons - 2002 - Philosophy of Science 70 (5):891-901.
    Scientific realists have claimed that the posit that our theories are (approximately) true provides the best or the only explanation for their success . In response, I revive two non-realists explanations. I show that realists, in discarding them, have either misconstrued the phenomena to be explained or mischaracterized the relationship between these explanations and their own. I contend nonetheless that these non-realist competitors, as well as their realist counterparts, should be rejected; for none of them succeed in explaining a significant (...)
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  • Non‐Competitor Conditions in the Scientific Realism Debate.Timothy D. Lyons - 2009 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 23 (1):65-84.
    A general insight of 20th-century philosophy of science is that the acceptance of a scientific theory is grounded, not merely on a theory's relation to data, but on its status as having no, or being superior to its, competitors. I explore the ways in which scientific realists might be thought to utilise this insight, have in fact utilised it, and can legitimately utilise it. In more detail, I point out that, barring a natural but mistaken characterisation of scientific realism, traditional (...)
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  • Scientific Realism.Timothy D. Lyons - 2016 - In Paul Humphreys (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Science. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 564-584.
    This article endeavors to identify the strongest versions of the two primary arguments against epistemic scientific realism: the historical argument—generally dubbed “the pessimistic meta-induction”—and the argument from underdetermination. It is shown that, contrary to the literature, both can be understood as historically informed but logically validmodus tollensarguments. After specifying the question relevant to underdetermination and showing why empirical equivalence is unnecessary, two types of competitors to contemporary scientific theories are identified, both of which are informed by science itself. With the (...)
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  • Realism on the Rocks: Novel Success and James Hutton's Theory of the Earth.Thomas Rossetter - 2018 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 67:1-13.
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  • A Confrontation of Convergent Realism.Peter Vickers - 2013 - Philosophy of Science 80 (2):189-211.
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  • A Pragmatic, Existentialist Approach to the Scientific Realism Debate.Curtis Forbes - 2017 - Synthese 194 (9):3327-3346.
    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 (...)
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  • Towards a Realistic Success-to-Truth Inference for Scientific Realism.Peter Vickers - 2019 - Synthese 196 (2):571-585.
    A success-to-truth inference has always been at the heart of scientific realist positions. But all attempts to articulate the inference have met with very significant challenges. This paper reconstructs the evolution of this inference, and brings together a number of qualifications in an attempt to articulate a contemporary success-to-truth inference which is realistic. I argue that this contemporary version of the inference has a chance, at least, of overcoming the historical challenges which have been proffered to date. However, there is (...)
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  • Historical Inductions: New Cherries, Same Old Cherry-Picking.Moti Mizrahi - 2015 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 29 (2):129-148.
    In this article, I argue that arguments from the history of science against scientific realism, like the arguments advanced by P. Kyle Stanford and Peter Vickers, are fallacious. The so-called Old Induction, like Vickers's, and New Induction, like Stanford's, are both guilty of confirmation bias—specifically, of cherry-picking evidence that allegedly challenges scientific realism while ignoring evidence to the contrary. I also show that the historical episodes that Stanford adduces in support of his New Induction are indeterminate between a pessimistic and (...)
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  • Pessimistic Inductions: Four Varieties.K. Brad Wray - 2015 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 29 (1):61-73.
    The pessimistic induction plays an important role in the contemporary realism/anti-realism debate in philosophy of science. But there is some disagreement about the structure and aim of the argument. And a number of scholars have noted that there is more than one type of PI in the philosophical literature. I review four different versions of the PI. I aim to show that PIs have been appealed to by philosophers of science for a variety of reasons. Even some realists have appealed (...)
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  • A Historically Informed Modus Ponens Against Scientific Realism: Articulation, Critique, and Restoration.Timothy D. Lyons - 2013 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 27 (4):369-392.
    There are two primary arguments against scientific realism, one pertaining to underdetermination, the other to the history of science. While these arguments are usually treated as altogether distinct, P. Kyle Stanford's ‘problem of unconceived alternatives’ constitutes one kind of synthesis: I propose that Stanford's argument is best understood as a broad modus ponens underdetermination argument, into which he has inserted a unique variant of the historical pessimistic induction. After articulating three criticisms against Stanford's argument and the evidence that he offers, (...)
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  • Method and Continuity in Science.K. Brad Wray - 2016 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 47 (2):363-375.
    Devitt has developed an interesting defense of realism against the threats posed by the Pessimistic Induction and the Argument from Unconceived Alternatives. Devitt argues that the best explanation for the success of our current theories, and the fact that they are superior to the theories they replaced, is that they were developed and tested with the aid of better methods than the methods used to develop and test the many theories that were discarded earlier in the history of science. It (...)
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  • Reconsidering the Miracle Argument on the Supposition of Transient Underdetermination.Paul Hoyningen-Huene - 2011 - Synthese 180 (2):173 - 187.
    In this paper, I will show that the Miracle Argument is unsound if one assumes a certain form of transient underdetermination. For this aim, I will first discuss and formalize several variants of underdetermination, especially that of transient underdetermination, by means of measure theory. I will then formalize a popular and persuasive form of the Miracle Argument that is based on "use novelty". I will then proceed to the proof that the miracle argument is unsound by means of a mathematical (...)
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  • How Deployment Realism Withstands Doppelt's Criticisms.Mario Alai - 2018 - Spontaneous Generations 9 (1):122-135.
    Gerald Doppelt claims that Deployment Realism cannot withstand the antirealist objections based on the “pessimistic meta-induction” and Laudan’s historical counterexamples. Moreover it is incomplete, as it purports to explain the predictive success of theories, but overlooks the necessity to explain also their explanatory success. Accordingly, he proposes a new version of realism, presented as the best explanation of both predictive and explanatory success, and committed only to the truth of best current theories, not of the discarded ones. Elsewhere I criticized (...)
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  • Four Challenges to Epistemic Scientific Realism—and the Socratic Alternative.Timothy D. Lyons - 2018 - Spontaneous Generations 9 (1):146-150.
    Four Challenges to Epistemic Scientific Realism—and the Socratic Alternative.
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  • Editor's Introduction.Curtis Forbes - 2018 - Spontaneous Generations 9 (1):1-11.
    The debate over scientific realism, simply put, is a debate over what we can and should believe about reality once we've critically assessed all the available arguments and empirical evidence. Thinking earnestly about the merits of scientific realism as a philosophical thesis requires navigating contentious historiographical issues, being familiar with the technical details of various scientific theories, and addressing disparate philosophical problems spanning aesthetics, metaphysics, epistemology, and beyond. This issue of Spontaneous Generations: A Journal for the History and Philosophy of (...)
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  • Axiological Scientific Realism and Methodological Prescription.Timothy D. Lyons - 2010 - In Henk W. de Regt (ed.), Epsa Philosophy of Science: Amsterdam 2009. Springer. pp. 187--197.
    In this paper I distinguish between two kinds of meta-hypotheses, or hypotheses about science, at issue in the scientific realism debate. The first are descriptive empirical hypotheses regarding the nature of scientific inquiry. The second are epistemological theories about what individuals should / can justifiably believe about scientific theories. Favoring the realist Type-D meta-hypotheses, I argue that a particular set of realist and non-realist efforts in the debate over Type-E’s have been valuable in the quest to describe and understand the (...)
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  • Retail Realism and Wholesale Treatments of Theoretical Entities.Jonathon Hricko - manuscript
    According to retail realism, we ought to abandon wholesale arguments, which purport to demonstrate realism or anti-realism about theoretical entities in general, and embrace retail arguments, which purport to demonstrate realism or anti-realism about specific kinds of theoretical entities. My aim is to argue that there is a further wholesale element that retail realism must avoid in order to qualify as a viable position. In order to do so, I distinguish between what I call wholesale and retail treatments of theoretical (...)
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  • Scientific Revolutions and the Explosion of Scientific Evidence.Ludwig Fahrbach - 2017 - Synthese 194 (12):5039-5072.
    Scientific realism, the position that successful theories are likely to be approximately true, is threatened by the pessimistic induction according to which the history of science is full of suc- cessful, but false theories. I aim to defend scientific realism against the pessimistic induction. My main thesis is that our current best theories each enjoy a very high degree of predictive success, far higher than was enjoyed by any of the refuted theories. I support this thesis by showing that both (...)
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  • Systematicity Theory Meets Socratic Scientific Realism: The Systematic Quest for Truth.Timothy D. Lyons - 2019 - Synthese 196 (3):833-861.
    Systematicity theory—developed and articulated by Paul Hoyningen-Huene—and scientific realism constitute separate encompassing and empirical accounts of the nature of science. Standard scientific realism asserts the axiological thesis that science seeks truth and the epistemological thesis that we can justifiably believe our successful theories at least approximate that aim. By contrast, questions pertaining to truth are left “outside” systematicity theory’s “intended scope” ; the scientific realism debate is “simply not” its “focus”. However, given the continued centrality of that debate in the (...)
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  • Beyond Structural Realism: Pluralist Criteria for Theory Evaluation.Mark Newman - 2010 - Synthese 174 (3):413-443.
    In this paper I argue that singularist approaches to solving the Pessimistic Induction, such as Structural Realism, are unacceptable, but that when a pluralist account of methodological principles is adopted this anti-realist argument can be dissolved. The proposed view is a contextual methodological pluralism in the tradition of Normative Naturalism, and is justified by appeal to meta-methodological principles that are themselves justified via an externalist epistemology. Not only does this view provide an answer to the Pessimistic Induction, it can also (...)
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  • Scientific Realism: Quo Vadis? Introduction: New Thinking About Scientific Realism.Stathis Psillos & Emma Ruttkamp-Bloem - 2017 - Synthese 194 (9):3187-3201.
    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.
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  • A Trilemma for Best Theory Realism.José Díez - 2018 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 8 (2):271-291.
    The no-miracles argument is the main inference-to-the-best-explanation kind of argument for scientific realism, and the pessimistic induction is considered a main, if not the main, challenge for a NMA-based scientific realism. Doppelt advocates a new kind of inference-to-the-best-explanation supported scientific realism that he labels Best Theory Realism. If successful in replacing standard selective realism as the best version of scientific realism, BTR would be particularly good since it is not committed to the partial truth of past theories and thereby it (...)
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  • Resisting the Historical Objections to Realism: Is Doppelt’s a Viable Solution?Mario Alai - 2017 - Synthese 194 (9):3267-3290.
    There are two possible realist defense strategies against the pessimistic meta-induction and Laudan’s meta-modus tollens: the selective strategy, claiming that discarded theories are partially true, and the discontinuity strategy, denying that pessimism about past theories can be extended to current ones. A radical version of discontinuity realism is proposed by Gerald Doppelt: rather than discriminating between true and false components within theories, he holds that superseded theories cannot be shown to be even partially true, while present best theories are demonstrably (...)
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  • Novel Predictions and the No Miracle Argument.Mario Alai - 2014 - Erkenntnis 79 (2):297-326.
    Predictivists use the no miracle argument to argue that “novel” predictions are decisive evidence for theories, while mere accommodation of “old” data cannot confirm to a significant degree. But deductivists claim that since confirmation is a logical theory-data relationship, predicted data cannot confirm more than merely deduced data, and cite historical cases in which known data confirmed theories quite strongly. On the other hand, the advantage of prediction over accommodation is needed by scientific realists to resist Laudan’s criticisms of the (...)
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  • On Scientific Realism and Naturalism.Alberto Cordero - 2015 - Journal of Philosophical Research 40 (Supplement):31-43.
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  • A New Twist to the No Miracles Argument for the Success of Science.K. Brad Wray - 2018 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 69:86-89.
    J. D. Trout has recently developed a new defense of scientific realism, a new version of the No Miracles Argument. I critically evaluate Trout’s novel defense of realism. I argue that Trout’s argument for scientific realism and the related explanation for the success of science are self-defeating. In the process of arguing against the traditional realist strategies for explaining the success of science, he inadvertently undermines his own argument.
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  • Deployment Vs. Discriminatory Realism.Mario Alai - manuscript
    The currently most plausible version of scientific realism is probably “deployment” realism, based on various contributions in the recent literature, and worked out as a unitary account in Psillos. According to it we can believe in the at least partial truth of theories, because that is the best explanation of their predictive success, and discarded theories which had novel predictive success had nonetheless some true parts, those necessary to derive their novel predictions. According to Doppelt this account cannot withstand the (...)
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  • Explaining Science's Success: Understanding How Scientific Knowledge Works.John Wright - 2012 - Routledge.
    Paul Feyeraband famously asked, what's so great about science? One answer is that it has been surprisingly successful in getting things right about the natural world, more successful than non-scientific or pre-scientific systems, religion or philosophy. Science has been able to formulate theories that have successfully predicted novel observations. It has produced theories about parts of reality that were not observable or accessible at the time those theories were first advanced, but the claims about those inaccessible areas have since turned (...)
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  • Defending Deployment Realism Against Alleged Counterexamples.Mario Alai - 2014 - In Javier Cumpa, Greg Jesson & Guido Bonino (eds.), Defending Realism: Ontological and Epistemological Investigations. De Gruyter. pp. 265-290.
    Criticisms à la Laudan can block the “no miracles” argument for the (approximate) truth of whole theories. Realists have thus retrenched, arguing that at least the individual claims deployed in the derivation of novel predictions should be considered (approximately) true. But for Lyons (2002) there are historical counterexamples even to this weaker “deployment” realism: he lists a number of novel predictions supposedly derived from (radically) false claims. But if so, those successes would seem unexplainable, even by Lyons’ “modest surrealism” or (...)
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  • What Did the Romans Know?: An Inquiry Into Science and Worldmaking.Daryn Lehoux - 2012 - University of Chicago Press.
    Lehoux contends that even though many of the Romans' views about the natural world have no place in modern science--the umbrella-footed monsters and dog-headed people that roamed the earth and the stars that foretold human destinies--their ...
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  • The Epistemological Status of Scientific Theories: An Investigation of the Structural Realist Account.Ioannis Votsis - 2004 - Dissertation, London School of Economics
    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.
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