Scientific Realism

Michael Devitt

in The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Philosophy

Published in print November 2007 | ISBN: 9780199234769
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:


 Scientific Realism

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What is scientific realism? The literature provides a bewildering variety of answers. This article starts by addressing this question. It goes on to discuss the most influential arguments for and against scientific realism. The arguments for are the ‘success argument’ and related explanationist arguments. The arguments against are the ‘underdetermination argument’, which starts from the claim that theories always have empirically equivalent rivals; and the ‘pessimistic meta-induction’, which starts from a bleak view of the accuracy of past scientific theories. The approach here is naturalistic.

Keywords: scientific realism; explanationist arguments; underdetermination argument; meta-induction; scientific theories; naturalistic approach

Article.  12440 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Science ; Metaphysics

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