The Problem of Deep Competitors and the Pursuit of Epistemically Utopian Truths

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According to standard scientific realism, science seeks truth and we can justifiably believe that our successful theories achieve, or at least approximate, that goal. In this paper, I discuss the implications of the following competitor thesis: Any theory we may favor has competitors such that we cannot justifiably deny that they are approximately true. After defending that thesis, I articulate three specific threats it poses for standard scientific realism; one is epistemic, the other two are axiological (that is, pertaining to the claim that science seeks truth). I also flag an additional axiological “challenge,” that of how one might justify the pursuit of a primary aim, such as truth. Bracketing epistemic realism, I argue that the axiological threats can be addressed by embracing a refined realist axiological hypothesis, one that specifies a specific subclass of true claims sought in science. And after identifying three potential responses to the axiological “challenge,” I contend that, while standard axiological realism appears to lack the resources required to utilize any of the responses, the refined realist axiology I embrace is well suited to each
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The Scientific Image.Van Fraassen, Bas C.

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