Measured Realism

J. D. Trout

in Measuring the Intentional World

Published in print July 1998 | ISBN: 9780195107661
Published online February 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199786152 | DOI:
 Measured Realism

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This chapter defends a relatively modest but distinctive version of scientific realism, measured realism, that steers a middle course between minimal and robust realism. Measured realism includes four theses: (1) at least some of the quantitative methods and practices of science reliably detect and identify some of the central posited entities, processes, states, properties, and events in the social and behavioral sciences; (2) sometimes behavioral and social scientific theories, more often the generalizations that constitute them, are confirmed by the application of accepted methodological standards in the field; (3) in our best psychological and social theories, confirmation relations important to theoretical progress in those sciences are epistemically bite-sized and, accordingly, some parts of the tested theory are typically confirmationally adipose or extraneous; and (4) the reality described by our best psychological and social theories is independent of us as observers of, or as thinkers about that reality. Drawing on scientific evidence, psycholinguistics, signal processing, and paleontology, it is argued that these four theses provide the best explanation for the reliability of methodology in the social and behavioral sciences. The epistemic relation of mercenary reliance — the remote dependence upon experts outside of one’s discipline — provides a clear and novel illustration of adipose theory and bite-sized theoretical commitments.

Keywords: measured realism; quantitative methods; confirmation; adipose theory; social sciences; behavioral sciences; mercenary reliance; theoretical commitment

Chapter.  18018 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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