Scientific realism and the stratagema de divide et impera

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 57 (3):537-560 (2006)
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Abstract

In response to historical challenges, advocates of a sophisticated variant of scientific realism emphasize that theoretical systems can be divided into numerous constituents. Setting aside any epistemic commitment to the systems themselves, they maintain that we can justifiably believe those specific constituents that are deployed in key successful predictions. Stathis Psillos articulates an explicit criterion for discerning exactly which theoretical constituents qualify. I critique Psillos's criterion in detail. I then test the more general deployment realist intuition against a set of well-known historical cases, whose significance has, I contend, been overlooked. I conclude that this sophisticated form of realism remains threatened by the historical argument that prompted it. A criterion for scientific realism Assessing the criterion A return to the crucial insight: responsibility A few case studies Assessing deployment realism.

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Timothy D. Lyons
Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis

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