Realism, reference & perspective

European Journal for Philosophy of Science 10 (3):1-22 (2020)
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This paper continues the defense of a version of scientific realism, Tautological Scientific Realism, that rests on the claim that, excluding some areas of fundamental physics about which doubts are entirely justified, many areas of contemporary science cannot be coherently imagined to be false other than via postulation of radically skeptical scenarios, which are not relevant to the realism debate in philosophy of science. In this paper we discuss, specifically, the threats of meaning change and reference failure associated with the Kuhnian tradition, which depend on a descriptivist approach to meaning, and we argue that descriptivism is not the right account of the meaning and reference of theoretical terms. We suggest that an account along the lines of the causal-historical theory of reference provides a more faithful picture of how terms for unobservable theoretical entities and properties come to refer; we argue that this picture works particularly well for TSR. In the last section we discuss how our account raises concerns specifically for perspectival forms of scientific realism.

Author Profiles

Carl Hoefer
University of Barcelona
Genoveva Martí
ICREA And University Of Barcelona


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