Criteria for Attributing Predictive Responsibility in the Scientific Realism Debate: Deployment, Essentiality, Belief, Retention …

Human Affairs 19 (2) (2009)
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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 non-realists to the fundamental intuition above. In more detail: I show that Stathis Psillos (1999) has offered an explicit criterion for picking out particular constituents, which, contrary to Kyle Stanford’s (2006a) criticisms, neither assumes the truth of theories nor requires hindsight. I contend, however, that, in Psillos’s case studies, Psillos has not successfully applied his explicit criterion. After clarifying the various alternative criteria at work (in those case studies and in a second line of criticism offered by Stanford), I argue that, irrespective of Stanford’s criticisms, the explicit criterion Psillos does offer is not an acceptable one. Nonetheless, the deployment realist’s fundamental intuition withstands all of these challenges. In closing, I point in a direction toward which I’ve elsewhere focused, suggesting that, despite the legitimacy and applicability of the deployment realist’s intuition, the historical threat that prompted it remains.
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