scientific realism vs antirealism

In quantum mechanics, for example, spin states of entangled particles are perfectly correlated, yet every reasonable explanation-candidate has failed, and scientists no longer insist that they must be explained, contrary to what realists allegedly require (Fine 1986). CE concedes a realist semantics (“electron”-talk is not highly derived talk about observables) but preserves the spirit of positivism by recommending agnosticism about a theory’s literal claims about unobservables. We now see why SR is committed to SR3 and SR4 above. Second, truth and reference are disquotational devices: because of the T-equivalences, to assert that “snow is white” is true (in English) is just to assert that snow is white; similarly, to assert that “snow” refers (in English) to some stuff is just to assert that the stuff is snow. As native speakers, we know, without empirical investigation, that “electron” refers to electrons just by having mastered the word “refers” in our language. Stanford argues that realists can avoid this problem only if they can provide prospectively applicable criteria of selective confirmation—criteria that past theorists could have used to distinguish the good from the bad in advance of future developments and that we could now use—but they did not have such criteria, nor do we. London: Routledge. ‘Putnam’s Paradox’, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 62: 221-236. Scientific Realism & Anti-Realism Introduction Scientific theories claim, or at least seem to claim, that the universe is populated by a host of entities that we cannot observe in any obvious sense: we have genes, quarks, curved space-time, the superego (if you think psychoanalysis is a science) etc. Van Fraassen also claims that the limits of observation are disclosed by empirical science and not by philosophical analysis—what is observable is simply a fact disclosed by science. Second, EStR requires a variant of the NMA (restricted to retention of structure) to uphold StR5. For CE there can be no epistemic reason to believe one over the other, though there may be pragmatic reasons to accept (commit to using) one over the other. (It is noteworthy that Putnam recanted internalist truth in his last writing on these matters (Putnam 2015)). Finally, if we interpret the language of science literally (as van Fraassen does), then we ought to accept that we see tables if and only if we see collections of molecules subject to various kinds of forces. At the meta-level, the alleged phenomenon is that our best scientific traditions and theories are instrumentally and methodologically successful; SR is alleged to be the best (or only) explanation of that phenomenon; thus we should infer SR. As we will see (§§6d, 7, 11b), it is not clear that these uses of IBE are legitimate, because the alleged phenomenon itself is questionable, or the SR-“explanation” does not explain, or no explanation may be needed, or alternative antirealist explanations may be better. Field, H. (1972), “Tarski’s Theory of Truth”, Journal of Philosophy 64 (13), 347-375. Friedman (1982) questions whether van Fraassen achieves this. Such theorems suggest that Newtonian mechanics yields close to correct answers for applications close to the relativistic limits (not too fast). Again realism, but not positivism, succeeds. Thus, Putnam thinks, truth is epistemically transcendent: it cannot be captured by any epistemic surrogate (Putnam 1978). Putnam, H. (1978), Meaning and the Moral Sciences. Merrill, G. H. (1980), “The Model-Theoretic Argument Against Realism”, Philosophy of Science 47, 69-81. Suppose a scientific theory T tells us “A is unobservable by humans”. Friedman, M. (1982), “Review of The Scientific Image”, Journal of Philosophy 79 (5), 274-283. (The Ramseyfied-theory approach encounters similar problems (Psillos 2001).). Wilson, M. (1982), “Predicate Meets Property”, Philosophical Review 91(4), 549-589. Different The Aim of Science: Causal Explanation or Abstract Representation? To undercut this general option, van Fraassen argues, the realist must commit to some claim like: every regularity and coincidence must be explained. Cartwright (1983) and Hacking (1983) represent this mix of theoretical law antirealism and theoretical entity realism. Existence, reference, and truth are all theory-relative. Model theory tells us that since T is consistent it has a model M of cardinality n; that is, all the sentences of T will be true-in-M. Now define a 1-1 mapping f from the domain of M, D(M), to the domain of W, D(W), and use f to define a reference relation R* between L(T) (the language of our theory) and objects in D(W) as follows: if x is an object in D(W) and P is a predicate of L(T), then P refers* to x if and only if P refers-in-M to f-1x. I try to show that their critiques of inference to the best explanation backfire on van Fraassen's positive philosophical theories, such as the contextual theory of explanation and constructive empiricism. In nature there are no purely Newtonian gravitational systems or purely electromagnetic systems. (2) Scientific uses of IBE are grounded in, and are just sophisticated applications of, a principle we use in everyday inferential practice. Recall the realists’ reasoning: there is a surprising phenomenon—our current scientific theories, scientific methodology, and the history of modern science, are surprisingly successful—which cries out for explanation; the only explanation is that the theories are approximately true; thus, by IBE, realism. Psillos, S. (1999), Scientific Realism: How Science Tracks Truth.

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