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Realism and the limits of explanatory reasoning

In The Routledge Handbook of Scientific Realism. London: Routledge. pp. 200-211 (2018)

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  1. Scientific Realism: Between Platonism and Nominalism.Stathis Psillos - 2010 - Philosophy of Science 77 (5):947-958.
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  • Moving Molecules Above the Scientific Horizon: On Perrin’s Case for Realism. [REVIEW]Stathis Psillos - 2011 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 42 (2):339-363.
    This paper aims to cast light on the reasons that explain the shift of opinion—from scepticism to realism—concerning the reality of atoms and molecules in the beginning of the twentieth century, in light of Jean Perrin’s theoretical and experimental work on the Brownian movement. The story told has some rather interesting repercussions for the rationality of accepting the reality of explanatory posits. Section 2 presents the key philosophical debate concerning the role and status of explanatory hypotheses c. 1900, focusing on (...)
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  • Real Realism: The Galilean Strategy.Philip Kitcher - 2001 - Philosophical Review 110 (2):151-197.
    This essay aims to disentangle various types of anti-realism, and to disarm the considerations that are deployed to support them. I distinguish empiricist versions of anti-realism from constructivist versions, and, within each of these, semantic arguments from epistemological arguments. The centerpiece of my defense of a modest version of realism - real realism - is the thought that there are resources within our ordinary ways of talking about and knowing about everyday objects that enable us to extend our claims to (...)
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  • Real Realism: The Galilean Strategy.Philip Kitcher - 2001 - Philosophical Review 110 (2):151.
    There are almost as many versions of realism as there are antirealists, each ready to supply a preferred characterization before undertaking demolition. Even in the case of scientific realism, my topic here, I recognize two major antirealist themes.
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  • Explaining the Brain: Mechanisms and the Mosaic Unity of Neuroscience.Carl F. Craver - 2007 - Oxford University Press, Clarendon Press.
    Carl Craver investigates what we are doing when we sue neuroscience to explain what's going on in the brain.
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  • Living in Harmony: Nominalism and the Explanationist Argument for Realism.Juha T. Saatsi - 2007 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 21 (1):19 – 33.
    According to the indispensability argument, scientific realists ought to believe in the existence of mathematical entities, due to their indispensable role in theorising. Arguably the crucial sense of indispensability can be understood in terms of the contribution that mathematics sometimes makes to the super-empirical virtues of a theory. Moreover, the way in which the scientific realist values such virtues, in general, and draws on explanatory virtues, in particular, ought to make the realist ontologically committed to abstracta. This paper shows that (...)
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  • The Empirical Stance.E. Millgram - 2002 - Philosophical Review 115 (3):404-408.
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  • Exceeding Our Grasp: Science, History, and the Problem of Unconceived Alternatives.P. Kyle Stanford - 2006 - Oxford University Press.
    The incredible achievements of modern scientific theories lead most of us to embrace scientific realism: the view that our best theories offer us at least roughly accurate descriptions of otherwise inaccessible parts of the world like genes, atoms, and the big bang. In Exceeding Our Grasp, Stanford argues that careful attention to the history of scientific investigation invites a challenge to this view that is not well represented in contemporary debates about the nature of the scientific enterprise. The historical record (...)
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  • The Scientific Image.Michael Friedman - 1982 - Journal of Philosophy 79 (5):274-283.
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  • Inference to the Best Explanation.Peter Lipton - 2004 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (2):421-423.
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  • Scientific Explanation and the Causal Structure of the World. Wesley Salmon.James H. Fetzer - 1984 - Philosophy of Science 54 (4):597-610.
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  • How the Laws of Physics Lie.Malcolm R. Forster - 1985 - Philosophy of Science 52 (3):478-480.
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  • The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory. Pierre Duhem, P. P. Wiener.Martin J. Klein - 1954 - Philosophy of Science 21 (4):354-355.
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  • Realism, Mathematics and Modality.Hartry Field - 1988 - Philosophical Topics 16 (1):57-107.
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  • Choosing the Realist Framework.Stathis Psillos - 2011 - Synthese 180 (2):301 - 316.
    There has been an empiricist tradition in the core of Logical Positivism/Empiricism, starting with Moritz Schlick and ending in Herbert Feigl (via Hans Reichenbach), according to which the world of empiricism need not be a barren place devoid of all the explanatory entities posited by scientific theories. The aim of this paper is to articulate this tradition and to explore ways in which its key elements can find a place in the contemporary debate over scientific realism. It presents a way (...)
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  • Living with the Abstract: Realism and Models.Stathis Psillos - 2011 - Synthese 180 (1):3-17.
    A natural way to think of models is as abstract entities. If theories employ models to represent the world, theories traffic in abstract entities much more widely than is often assumed. This kind of thought seems to create a problem for a scientific realist approach to theories. Scientific realists claim theories should be understood literally. Do they then imply the reality of abstract entities? Or are theories simply—and incurably—false? Or has the very idea of literal understanding to be abandoned? Is (...)
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  • Explanatory Warrant for Scientific Realism.Robert Pierson & Richard Reiner - 2008 - Synthese 161 (2):271 - 282.
    Nancy Cartwright relies upon an inference pattern known as inference to the best causal explanation (IBCE) to support a limited form of entity realism, according to which we are warranted in believing in entities that purportively cause observable effects. IBCE, as usually understood, is valid, even though all other forms of inference to the best explanation (IBE) are usually understood to be invalid. We argue that IBCE and IBE are in the same boat with respect to their ability to support (...)
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  • Depth: An Account of Scientific Explanation.Michael Strevens - 2008 - Harvard University Press.
    Approaches to explanation -- Causal and explanatory relevance -- The kairetic account of /D making -- The kairetic account of explanation -- Extending the kairetic account -- Event explanation and causal claims -- Regularity explanation -- Abstraction in regularity explanation -- Approaches to probabilistic explanation -- Kairetic explanation of frequencies -- Kairetic explanation of single outcomes -- Looking outward -- Looking inward.
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  • Locating IBE in the Bayesian Framework.Jonathan Weisberg - 2009 - Synthese 167 (1):125-143.
    Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE) and Bayesianism are our two most prominent theories of scientific inference. Are they compatible? Van Fraassen famously argued that they are not, concluding that IBE must be wrong since Bayesianism is right. Writers since then, from both the Bayesian and explanationist camps, have usually considered van Fraassen’s argument to be misguided, and have plumped for the view that Bayesianism and IBE are actually compatible. I argue that van Fraassen’s argument is actually not so misguided, (...)
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  • A Role for Mathematics in the Physical Sciences.Chris Pincock - 2007 - Noûs 41 (2):253-275.
    Conflicting accounts of the role of mathematics in our physical theories can be traced to two principles. Mathematics appears to be both (1) theoretically indispensable, as we have no acceptable non-mathematical versions of our theories, and (2) metaphysically dispensable, as mathematical entities, if they existed, would lack a relevant causal role in the physical world. I offer a new account of a role for mathematics in the physical sciences that emphasizes the epistemic benefits of having mathematics around when we do (...)
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  • Mathematical Explanation in Science.Alan Baker - 2009 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (3):611-633.
    Does mathematics ever play an explanatory role in science? If so then this opens the way for scientific realists to argue for the existence of mathematical entities using inference to the best explanation. Elsewhere I have argued, using a case study involving the prime-numbered life cycles of periodical cicadas, that there are examples of indispensable mathematical explanations of purely physical phenomena. In this paper I respond to objections to this claim that have been made by various philosophers, and I discuss (...)
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  • Explanatory Abstractions.Lina Jansson & Juha Saatsi - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (3):817–844.
    A number of philosophers have recently suggested that some abstract, plausibly non-causal and/or mathematical, explanations explain in a way that is radically dif- ferent from the way causal explanation explain. Namely, while causal explanations explain by providing information about causal dependence, allegedly some abstract explanations explain in a way tied to the independence of the explanandum from the microdetails, or causal laws, for example. We oppose this recent trend to regard abstractions as explanatory in some sui generis way, and argue (...)
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  • The Nature of Scientific Knowledge: An Explanatory Approach.Kevin McCain - 2016 - Springer.
    This book offers a comprehensive and accessible introduction to the epistemology of science. It not only introduces readers to the general epistemological discussion of the nature of knowledge, but also provides key insights into the particular nuances of scientific knowledge. No prior knowledge of philosophy or science is assumed by The Nature of Scientific Knowledge. Nevertheless, the reader is taken on a journey through several core concepts of epistemology and philosophy of science that not only explores the characteristics of the (...)
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  • Explanation and Explanationism in Science and Metaphysics.Juha Saatsi - forthcoming - In Matthew Slater & Zanja Yudell (eds.), Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Science: New Essays. Oxford University Press.
    This chapter examines the status of inference to the best explanation in naturalistic metaphysics. The methodology of inference to the best explanation in metaphysics is studied from the perspective of contemporary views on scientific explanation and explanatory inferences in the history and philosophy of science. This reveals serious shortcomings in prevalent attempts to vindicate metaphysical "explanationism" by reference to similarities between science and naturalistic metaphysics. This critique is brought out by considering a common gambit of methodological unity: (1) Both metaphysics (...)
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  • Eight Other Questions About Explanation.Angela Potochnik - 2018 - In Alexander Reutlinger & Juha Saatsi (eds.), Explanation Beyond Causation: Philosophical Perspectives on Non-Causal Explanations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    The tremendous philosophical focus on how to characterize explanatory metaphysical dependence has eclipsed a number of other unresolved issued about scientific explanation. The purpose of this paper is taxonomical. I will outline a number of other questions about the nature of explanation and its role in science—eight, to be precise—and argue that each is independent. All of these topics have received some philosophical attention, but none nearly so much as it deserves. Furthermore, existing views on these topics have been obscured (...)
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  • Success, Truth and the Galilean Strategy.P. D. Magnus - 2003 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 54 (3):465-474.
    Philip Kitcher develops the Galilean Strategy to defend realism against its many opponents. I explore the structure of the Galilean Strategy and consider it specifically as an instrument against constructive empiricism. Kitcher claims that the Galilean Strategy underwrites an inference from success to truth. We should resist that conclusion, I argue, but the Galilean Strategy should lead us by other routes to believe in many things about which the empiricist would rather remain agnostic. 1 Target: empiricism 2 The Galilean Strategy (...)
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  • Experimentation and Scientific Realism.Ian Hacking - 1982 - Philosophical Topics 13 (1):71-87.
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  • Meaning and the Moral Sciences.Hilary Putnam - 1978 - Routledge.
    First published in 1978, this reissue presents a seminal philosophical work by professor Putnam, in which he puts forward a conception of knowledge which makes ethics, practical knowledge and non-mathematic parts of the social sciences just as much parts of 'knowledge' as the sciences themselves. He also rejects the idea that knowledge can be demarcated from non-knowledge by the fact that the former alone adheres to 'the scientific method'. The first part of the book consists of Professor Putnam's John Locke (...)
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  • Explanation Beyond Causation: Philosophical Perspectives on Non-Causal Explanations.Alexander Reutlinger & Juha Saatsi (eds.) - 2018 - Oxford University Press.
    Explanations are very important to us in many contexts: in science, mathematics, philosophy, and also in everyday and juridical contexts. But what is an explanation? In the philosophical study of explanation, there is long-standing, influential tradition that links explanation intimately to causation: we often explain by providing accurate information about the causes of the phenomenon to be explained. Such causal accounts have been the received view of the nature of explanation, particularly in philosophy of science, since the 1980s. However, philosophers (...)
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  • Emergent Physics and Micro-Ontology.Margaret Morrison - 2012 - Philosophy of Science 79 (1):141-166.
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  • Scientific Realism and Naturalistic Epistemology.Richard Boyd - 1980 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1980:613-662.
    A realistic and dialectical conception of the epistemology of science is advanced according to which the acquisition of instrumental knowledge is parasitic upon the acquisition, by successive approximation, of theoretical knowledge. This conception is extended to provide an epistemological characterization of reference and of natural kinds, and it is integrated into recent naturalistic treatments of knowledge. Implications for several current issues in the philosophy of science are explored.
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  • The No‐Miracles Argument for Realism: Inference to an Unacceptable Explanation.Greg Frost‐Arnold - 2010 - Philosophy of Science 77 (1):35-58.
    I argue that a certain type of naturalist should not accept a prominent version of the no-miracles argument (NMA). First, scientists (usually) do not accept explanations whose explanans-statements neither generate novel predictions nor unify apparently disparate established claims. Second, scientific realism (as it appears in the NMA) is an explanans that makes no new predictions and fails to unify disparate established claims. Third, many proponents of the NMA explicitly adopt a naturalism that forbids philosophy of science from using any methods (...)
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  • The Explanatory Dispensability of Idealizations.Sam Baron - 2016 - Synthese 193 (2):365-386.
    Enhanced indispensability arguments seek to establish realism about mathematics based on the explanatory role that mathematics plays in science. Idealizations pose a problem for such arguments. Idealizations, in a similar way to mathematics, boost the explanatory credentials of our best scientific theories. And yet, idealizations are not the sorts of things that are supposed to attract a realist attitude. I argue that the explanatory symmetry between idealizations and mathematics can potentially be broken as follows: although idealizations contribute to the explanatory (...)
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  • Road Work Ahead: Heavy Machinery on the Easy Road.M. Colyvan - 2012 - Mind 121 (484):1031-1046.
    In this paper I reply to Jody Azzouni, Otávio Bueno, Mary Leng, David Liggins, and Stephen Yablo, who offer defences of so-called ‘ easy road ’ nominalist strategies in the philosophy of mathematics.
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  • Replacing Recipe Realism.Juha Saatsi - 2017 - Synthese 194 (9):3233-3244.
    Many realist writings exemplify the spirit of ‘recipe realism’. Here I characterise recipe realism, challenge it, and propose replacing it with ‘exemplar realism’. This alternative understanding of realism is more piecemeal, robust, and better in tune with scientists’ own attitude towards their best theories, and thus to be preferred.
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  • Scientific Realism and Metaphysics.Stathis Psillos - 2005 - Ratio 18 (4):385–404.
    When we think of scientific realism, there seem to be to ways to conceive of what it is about. The first is to see it as a view about scientific theories; the second is to see it as a view about the world. Some philosophers, most typically from Australia, think that the second way is the correct way. Scientific realism, they argue, is a metaphysical thesis: it asserts the reality of some types of entity, most typically, unobservable entities. I agree (...)
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  • Novum Organon Renovatum.William Whewell - 2018 - Epistemology and Philosophy of Science 55 (2):186-211.
    The text is the Russian translation of W. Whewell’s work “Novum Organon Renovatum”, which is the third edition of the second volume of his major work “The philosophy of the Inductive Sciences founded upon their History”. In the text, W. Whewell proposes his theory of scientific method and classification of the necessary scientific ideas as a basis, from where every particular scientific discipline derives. By adopting the structure of the notorious Francis Bacon’s “Novum Organon”, Whewell reverses the order of scientific (...)
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  • Is There a Valid Experimental Argument for Scientific Realism?Peter Achinstein - 2002 - Journal of Philosophy 99 (9):470-495.
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  • Experimentation and Scientific Realism.Ian Hacking - 1982 - Philosophical Topics 13 (1):71-87.
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  • The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory.Pierre Duhem & Philip P. Wiener - 1955 - Science and Society 19 (1):85-87.
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  • The Miraculous Choice Argument for Realism. E. Barnes - 2002 - Philosophical Studies 111 (2):97-120.
    The miracle argument for scientific realism can be cast in two forms: according to the miraculous theory argument, realism is the only position which does not make the empirical successes of particular theories miraculous. According to the miraculous choice argument, realism is the only position which does not render the fact that empirically successful theories have been chosen a miracle. A vast literature discusses the miraculous theory argument, but the miraculous choice argument has been unjustifiably neglected. I raise two objections (...)
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  • Van Fraassen on Explanation.Philip Kitcher & Wesley Salmon - 1987 - Journal of Philosophy 84 (6):315-330.
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  • Hacking's Experimental Realism: An Untenable Middle Ground.Richard Reiner & Robert Pierson - 1995 - Philosophy of Science 62 (1):60-69.
    As Laudan and Fine show, and Boyd concedes, the attempt to infer the truth of scientific realism from the fact that it putatively provides the best explanation of the instrumental success of science is circular, since what is to be shown is precisely the legitimacy of such abductive inferences. Hacking's "experimental argument for scientific realism about entities" is one of the few arguments for scientific realism that purports to avoid this circularity. We argue that Hacking's argument is as dependent on (...)
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  • Evidence and Method: Scientific Strategies of Isaac Newton and James Clerk Maxwell.Peter Achinstein - 2013 - Oup Usa.
    In this book, Peter Achinstein proposes and defends several objective concepts of evidence. He then explores the question of whether a scientific method, such as that represented in the four "Rules for the Study of Natural Philosophy" that Isaac Newton invoked in proving his law of gravity, can be employed in demonstrating how the proposed definitions of evidence are to be applied to real scientific cases.
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  • The Scope and Limits of the No Miracles Argument1.Stathis Psillos - 2011 - In Dennis Dieks, Wenceslao Gonzalo, Thomas Uebel, Stephan Hartmann & Marcel Weber (eds.), Explanation, Prediction, and Confirmation. Springer. pp. 23--35.
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  • A Companion to Philosophy of Science.W. H. Newton-Smith (ed.) - 1999 - Blackwell.
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