Journal Article

Structure: Its Shadow and Substance

Bas C. van Fraassen

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 57, issue 2, pages 275-307
Published in print June 2006 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online March 2006 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
Structure: Its Shadow and Substance

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Structural realism as developed by John Worrall and others can claim philosophical roots as far back as the late 19th century, though the discussion at that time does not unambiguously favor the contemporary form, or even its realism. After a critical examination of some aspects of the historical background some severe critical challenges to both Worrall's and Ladyman's versions are highlighted, and an alternative empiricist structuralism proposed. Support for this empiricist version is provided in part by the different way in which we can do justice to Worrall's original demands and in part by the viewpoint it provides (in contrast to e.g. Michael Friedman's) on the stability maintained through scientific theory change.

Planck against the heretics

1.1 Poincaré on the meaning of Maxwell's equations

1.2 Two responses: reification and structuralism

On the road to structuralism

2.1 The microscope

2.2 Mathematization of the world picture

2.3 The 18th–20th century

The new structural realism

3.1 From scientific realism to structuralism

3.2 The Ladyman variant: objectivity and invariance

3.3 How is structural realism supported?

An empiricist structuralism

4.1 Royal succession in science

4.2 Defence of the empiricist version

4.3 Structure: an empiricist view

Journal Article.  15031 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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