Journal Article

How to Split a Theory: Defending Selective Realism and Convergence without Proximity

David Harker

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 64, issue 1, pages 79-106
Published in print March 2013 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online April 2012 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/axr059
How to Split a Theory: Defending Selective Realism and Convergence without Proximity

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The most influential arguments for scientific realism remain centrally concerned with an inference from scientific success to the approximate truth of successful theories. Recently, however, and in response to antirealists' objections from radical discontinuity within the history of science, the arguments have been refined. Rather than target entire theories, realists narrow their commitments to only certain parts of theories. Despite an initial plausibility, the selective realist strategy faces significant challenges. In this article, I outline four prerequisites for a successful selective realist defence and argue that adopting a comparative sense of success both satisfies those requirements and partially in consequence provides a more compelling, albeit more modest, realist thesis.

1Introduction

2Requisites for a Selective Realist Defence

3Success, Progress, and a New Selective Realist Thesis

  3.1A new way for realists to think about scientific success

  3.2Distinguishing two realist commitments

  3.3A new selective realist thesis

  3.4For convergence and against relying on explanatory virtues

4Requisites for a Selective Realist Defence Revisited

5Historical Sketches

  5.1Optical aether theories

  5.2Phlogiston theory

  5.3Darwin, Galton, and Weissmann on generation and inheritance

  5.4Stability across theory change

6Conclusions

Journal Article.  11100 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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