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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractAccording to Boyd/Putnam, scientific realism is the view that successful theories are typically approximately true and that their key terms typically refer. The no-miracle argument for the view holds that approximate truth and reference provide the best explanation of the success of science. I try to defend scientific realism from the following six lines of antirealist objections. First, constructive empiricists argue that inference to the best explanation is a problematic rule of inference. 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. Second, pessimistic inducers argue that successful current theories will follow the fate of successful past theories which turned out to be completely false. I reply that realists can get around the historical objection, once they take the realist attitude only toward successful theories that cohere with each other. Third, antirealists from van Fraassen (1980) to Stanford (2000) have been proposing antirealist explanations of the success of science, thereby challenging the realist claim that the realist proposal is the best. I criticize eight antirealist proposals that I found in the literature with a view to proving that the realist proposal is still the best of the proposals I know of. Fourth, antirealists reject realism based on their views on the nature of scientific explanation. I critically evaluate four antirealist objections coming from that route. Fifth, antirealists might object that the key realist predicate, 'approximate truth,' is obscure. I reply that the predicate is viable, because there are clear cases of approximately true descriptions, and because Hilpinen/Lewis's theoretical account of approximate truth can handle those clear cases. Sixth, constructive empiricists claim that constructive empiricism is better than scientific realism because it explains science without extra epistemic risk. I attempt to prove, contrary to what the constructive empiricists believe, that empirical adequacy is harder to come by than approximate truth in the light of the pessimistic induction and the realist responses to it. Conclusion. Semantic, economic, empirical, and pragmatic considerations as a whole favor scientific realism over scientific antirealism, when realists believe that our best theories, successful theories that cohere with each other, are approximately true, and antirealists believe that they are approximately empirically adequate. Scientific realism is overall better than scientific antirealism.
Degree ProgramGraduate College