Realistic Claims in Logical Empiricism

In Uskali Mäki, Stéphanie Ruphy, Gerhard Schurz & Ioannis Votsis (eds.), Recent Developments in the Philosophy of Science. Cham: Springer (2015)
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Logical empiricism is commonly seen as a counter-position to scientific realism. In the present paper it is shown that there indeed existed a realist faction within the logical empiricist movement. In particular, I shall point out that at least four types of realistic arguments can be distinguished within this faction: Reichenbach’s ‘probabilistic argument,’ Feigl’s ‘pragmatic argument,’ Hempel’s ‘indispensability argument,’ and Kaila’s ‘invariantist argument.’ All these variations of arguments are intended to prevent the logical empiricist agenda from the shortcomings of radical positivism, instrumentalism, and other forms of scientific antirealism. On the whole, it will be seen that logical empiricism and scientific realism are essentially compatible with each other. Especially Kaila’s invariantist approach to science (and nature) comes quite close to what nowadays is discussed under the label ‘structural realism.’ This, in turn, necessitates a fundamental reevaluation of Kaila’s role in the logical empiricist movement in particular and in twentieth-century philosophy of science in general.

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Matthias Neuber
University Tübingen


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