Are There Good Arguments Against Scientific Realism?

In Antonio Piccolomini D’Aragona, Martin Carrier, Roger Deulofeu, Axel Gelfert, Jens Harbecke, Paul Hoyningen-Huene, Lara Huber, Peter Hucklenbroich, Ludger Jansen, Elizaveta Kostrova, Keizo Matsubara, Anne Sophie Meincke, Andrea Reichenberger, Kian Salimkhani, Javier Suárez & Alexander Christian (eds.), Philosophy of Science: Between the Natural Sciences, the Social Sciences, and the Humanities. Springer Verlag. pp. 3-22 (2018)
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I will first discuss a peculiarity of the realism-antirealism debate. Some authors defending antirealist positions in a philosophical discussion seem to be inconsistent with what they do when treating scientific subjects. In the latter situation, they behave as realists. This tension can be dissolved by distinguishing different discourses belonging to different levels of philosophical radicality. Depending on the respective level, certain presuppositions are either granted or questioned. I will then turn to a discussion of the miracle argument by discussing a simple example of curve fitting. In the example, multiple use-novel predictions are possible without indicating the truth of the fitting curve. Because this situation has similarities with real scientific cases, it sheds serious doubt upon the miracle argument. Next, I discuss the strategy of selective realism, especially its additional crucial component, the continuity argument. The continuity of some X in a series of theories, with X being responsible for the theories’ use-novel predictions, is taken to be a reliable indicator for the reality of X. However, the continuity of X could as well be due to the similarity of the theories in the series with an empirically very successful theory embodying X, without X being real. Thus, the two main arguments for scientific realism show severe weaknesses.

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Paul Hoyningen-Huene
Universität Hannover


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