Structural Realism or Modal Empiricism?

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (4):1051-1072 (2019)
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Structural realism has been suggested as the best compromise in the debate on scientific realism. It proposes that we should be realist about the relational structure of the world, not its nature. However, it faces an important objection, first raised by Newman against Russell: if relations are not qualified, then the position is either trivial or collapses into empiricism, but if relations are too strongly qualified, then it is no longer SR. A way to overcome this difficulty is to talk about modal, or nomological relations instead of purely extensional relations. I argue that this is insufficient, for then, SR collapses into modal empiricism. I suggest, however, that ME could be the best position in the debate on scientific realism. 1Introduction2Objections to Structural Realism3How to Escape Newman’s Objection4Which Modal Relations Are Retained in Theory Change?5Are Modal Relations Real?6Relativity and Fundamentality7Is Modal Empiricism Really Empiricism?8Could Modal Empiricism Be the Best of Both Worlds?

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Quentin Ruyant
Complutense University of Madrid


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