Archive for May 30th, 2011

May 30, 2011

Heretical Scientific Realism

by Neil Rickert

I have disagreed with parts of traditional epistemology in some of my earlier posts.  So it will surely be no surprise that I have disagreements with scientific epistemology.  In this post, I will discuss some of those disagreements in the context of scientific realism.

For a quick review of the traditional view on scientific realism, I suggest the Wikipedia entry and the Stanford Encyclopedia entry.  As the Stanford Encyclopedia says, “Debates about scientific realism are centrally connected to almost everything else in the philosophy of science, for they concern the very nature of scientific knowledge.”  I shall be contrasting my view (which I am describing as heretical) with some of the positions expressed in a more traditional view.

The Wikipedia entry opens with:

Scientific realism is, at the most general level, the view that the world described by science is the real world, as it is, independent of what we might take it to be.

I agree with that.  Of course, the actual descriptions provided by science might be imperfect, as most philosophers of science would agree.  The important point is that, imperfect as they may be, it is the real world that is being described.  The Wikipedia entry continues with:

Within philosophy of science, it is often framed as an answer to the question “how is the success of science to be explained?”

I also agree there, that accounting for the success of science is an important part of philosophy of science.  Beyond that point, I find myself disagreeing with much of the traditional view.

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