Retention Myths vs. Well-Managed Resources: Promises and Failings of Structural Realism (2014)

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Turning away from entities and focusing instead exclusively on ‘structural’ aspects of scientific theories has been advocated as a cogent response to objections levelled at realist conceptions of the aim and success of science. Physical theories whose (predictive) past successes are genuine would, in particular, share with their successors structural traits that would ultimately latch on to ‘structural’ features of the natural world. Motives for subscribing to Structural Realism are reviewed and discussed. It is argued that structural retention claims lose their force if one gives up merely historical readings of the transition from Galilean-relativistic classical mechanics to the ‘special’ theory of relativity, heeding instead basic requirements that lead to their common derivation. Further cause for scepticism is found upon realising that the basic mathematical framework of quantum theory essentially reflects its predictive purpose, without any necessary input, be it of a ‘structural’ kind, from the physical world.
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