Reality in Perspectives

Dissertation, Vu University Amsterdam (2022)
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Abstract

This dissertation is about human knowledge of reality. In particular, it argues that scientific knowledge is bounded by historically available instruments and theories; nevertheless, the use of several independent instruments and theories can provide access to the persistent potentialities of reality. The replicability of scientific observations and experiments allows us to obtain explorable evidence of robust entities and properties. The dissertation includes seven chapters. It also studies three cases – namely, Higgs bosons and hypothetical Ϝ-particles (section 2.4), the Ptolemaic and Kepler model of the planets (section 6.7), and the special theory of relativity (chapter 7). Chapter 1 is the introduction of the dissertation. Chapter 2 clarifies the notion of the real on the basis of two concepts: persistence and resistance. These concepts enable me to explain my ontological belief in the real potentialities of human-independent things and the implications of this view for the perceptual and epistemological levels of discussion. On the basis of the concept of “overlapping perspectives”, chapter 3 argues that entity realism and perspectivism are complementary. That is, an entity that manifests itself through several experimental/observational methods is something real, but our knowledge of its nature is perspectival. Critically studying the recent views of entity realism, chapter 4 extends the discussion of entity realism and provides a criterion for the reality of property tokens. Chapter 5, in contrast, develops the perspectival aspects of my view on the basis of the phenomenological-hermeneutical approaches to the philosophy of science. This chapter also elaborates my view of empirical evidence, as briefly expressed in sections 2.5 and 4.5. Chapter 6 concerns diachronic theoretical perspectives. It first explains my view of progress, according to which current perspectives are broader than past ones. Second, it argues that the successful explanations and predictions of abandoned theories can be accounted for from our currently acceptable perspectives. The case study of Ptolemaic astronomy supports the argument of this chapter. Chapter 7 serves as the conclusion of the dissertation by applying the central themes of the previous chapters to the case study of special relativity theory. I interpret frame-dependent properties, such as length and time duration, and the constancy of the speed of light according to realist perspectivism.

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Mahdi Khalili
University of Graz

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