Philosophy Lexicon of Arguments

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Realism, philosophy: realism is a collective term for theories which, in principle, believe that it is possible for us to acquire knowledge about objects of the external world that is independent from us as perceptual subjects. A strong realism typically represents the thesis that it would make sense to even create hypotheses about basically unknowable objects. See also metaphysical realism, internal realism, universal realism, constructivism.
 
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Horwich I 492
Scientific Realism/Richard Boyd/M. Williams: Boyd's defense of the scientific realism is much more complex than what we have seen so far:
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Horw I 493
Does it require a substantial (explanatory) scientific concept?
Boyd: more indirect way than Putnam: the (approximate) truth of our theories explains the instrumental reliability of our methods.
Method/Boyd: method is not theory neutral! On the contrary, because they are formed by our theories, it is their truth which explains the success of the methods.
Boyd/M. Williams: thus he turns a well-known argument on the head: BoydVsPositivism.
Positivism/Theory: Thesis: the language of observation must be theory neutral. Likewise the methodological principles.
IdealismVsPositivism: VsTheory Neutrality. e.g. Kuhn: the scientific community establishes the "facts".
Boyd/M. Williams: Boyd cleverly makes the theory-ladenness of our methodological judgments the basis of his realism. These methods, which are so loaded as our theory, would not work if the corresponding theories were not "approximately true in a relevant manner".
N.B.: one cannot accuse him of making an unacceptable rigid separation of theory and observation.
Ad. 1. Vs: that invalidates the first objection
Ad. 2. Vs: Boyd: it would be a miracle if our theory-loaded methods worked, although the theories proved to be wrong. There is no explanation for scientific realism.
Ad. 3. Vs:
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Horw I 494
M. Williams: this is not VsScientific realism but VsPutnam:
PutnamVsBoyd: arguments such as those of Boyd establish a causal role for the scientific concept.
BoydVsPutnam: they do not do that at all: "true" is only a conventional expression, which does not add any explanatory power to scientific realism.
Truth/explanation/realism/Boyd/M. Williams: explaining the success of our methods by the truth of our theories boils down to say that the methods with which we investigate particles work because the world consists of such particles that are more or less the way we think.
Conclusion: but it makes no difference whether we explain this success (of our methods) by the truth of the theories or by the theories themselves!
M. Williams pro deflationism: so we need no substantial concept of truth.
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Horw I 494
Truth/M.Williams: truth has no substantial role - and no explanatory role: no difference whether we explain success by truth of theory or by theory itself (pro deflationism)
Scientific Realism/M. Williams: some might object that according to the scientific realism our present theories are not true in one way or another, but simply and literally true.
M. Williams: that can be, but even the deflationist truth is in a sense realistic, because it does not insist on reconstructing the scientific concept epistemically.
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Horw I 495
Anti-Realism/Boyd: (BoydVsAnti-Realism/BoydVsDummett): two types:
a) "empirical" thesis that theories must be re-interpreted instrumentalistically
b) "constructivist" thesis (Kuhn): that the world must be constructed from the theoretical tradition of the scientific community

M. Williams: if that means that objects are not simply "given", then practically everyone is constructivist today.
Deflationism/M. Williams: deflationism does not have to face any version of constructivism.
Boyd/M. Williams: his scientific realism does not ask whether a substantial explanation is necessary in terms of "correspondence." His realism is more "empirical" (in Kant's sense) than "transcendental". It is not concerned with truth but with empirical relations between truths.

Boyd I
Richard Boyd
The Philosophy of Science Cambridge 1991

Hor I
P. Horwich (Ed.)
Theories of Truth Aldershot 1994


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2017-05-27