Scientific Realism

In Paul Humphreys (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Science. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 564-584 (2016)
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This article endeavors to identify the strongest versions of the two primary arguments against epistemic scientific realism: the historical argument—generally dubbed “the pessimistic meta-induction”—and the argument from underdetermination. It is shown that, contrary to the literature, both can be understood as historically informed but logically validmodus tollensarguments. After specifying the question relevant to underdetermination and showing why empirical equivalence is unnecessary, two types of competitors to contemporary scientific theories are identified, both of which are informed by science itself. With the content and structure of the two nonrealist arguments clarified, novel relations between them are uncovered, revealing the severity of their collective threat against epistemic realism and its “no-miracles” argument. The final section proposes, however, that the realist’s axiological tenet “science seeks truth” is not blocked. An attempt is made to indicate the promise for a nonepistemic, purely axiological scientific realism—here dubbed “Socratic scientific realism.”
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