Es wird der Frage nachgegangen, ob das No-Miracle Argument als ein Schluss auf die beste Erklärung ein gutes Argument ist. Diese Frage ist auch deshalb interessant, weil, wenn sie bejaht werden kann, es rational ist, anzunehmen, dass reife wissenschaftliche Theorien uns einen epistemischen Zugang zu einer Welt jenseits des direkt Beobachtbaren erschließen.
The fact that many scientific models are idealised, and therefore incorporate known falsehoods, seems to undermine the idea that science aims at truth. Various authors have proposed different solutions to this problem: they have claimed that idealisations are harmless because models can be "de-idealised", that the function of idealisations is to isolate explanatory relevant factors, or that idealised models still convey veridical modal information. I argue that even if these strategies succeed in making idealisations compatible with theoretical truth, a deeper (...) problem remains: the fact that idealisations improve the explanatory power of models contradicts the main argument for scientific realism, which is based on the idea that explanatory virtues are truth-conducive. There does not seem to be any simple solution to this problem. (shrink)
Deployment Realism resists Laudan’s and Lyons’ objections to the “No Miracle Argument” by arguing that a hypothesis is most probably true when it is deployed essentially in a novel prediction. However, Lyons criticized Psillos’ criterion of essentiality, maintaining that Deployment Realism should be committed to all the actually deployed assumptions. But since many actually deployed assumptions proved false, he concludes that the No Miracle Argument and Deployment Realism fail. I reply that the essentiality condition is required by Occam’s razor. In (...) fact, there is a simpler formulation of essentiality which escapes Lyons’ criticisms and rescues the No Miracle Argument and Deployment Realism from their purported historical counterexamples: a hypothesis is essential when it has no proper parts (in Yablo’s sense) sufficient to derive the same prediction. Although essentiality so conceived cannot be detected prospectively, this is just natural, and it is not a problem but an advantage for Deployment Realism. (shrink)
The “No Miracle Argument” for scientific realism contends that the only plausible explanation for the predictive success of scientific theories is their truthlikeness, but doesn’t specify what ‘truthlikeness’ means. I argue that if we understand ‘truthlikeness’ in terms of Kullback-Leibler (KL) divergence, the resulting realist thesis (RKL) is a plausible explanation for science’s success. Still, RKL probably falls short of the realist’s ideal. I argue, however, that the strongest version of realism that the argument can plausibly establish is RKL. The (...) realist needs another argument for establishing a stronger realist thesis. (shrink)
The traditional No-Miracles Argument (TNMA) asserts that the novel predictive success of science would be a miracle, and thus too implausible to believe, if successful theories were not at least approximately true. The TNMA has come under fire in multiple ways, challenging each of its premises and its general argumentative structure. While the TNMA relies on explaining novel predictive success via the truth of the theories, we put forth a deductive version of the No-Miracles argument (DNMA) that avoids inference to (...) the best explanation entirely. Instead, a relatively simple empirical framework and a probabilistic analysis can accomplish the ambitious goals of the TNMA while entirely sidestepping its problems. This close-but-distinct argument has many independent strengths and comparatively few weaknesses. Indeed, objections tailored specifically to the DNMA reveal surprising insights into how exactly NMAs are neither circular nor question-begging, as has been widely speculated. (shrink)
According to realists, theories are successful because they are true, but according to selectionists, theories are successful because they have gone through a rigorous selection process. Wray claims that the realist and selectionist explanations are rivals to each other. Lee objects that they are instead complementary to each other. In my view, Lee’s objection presupposes that the realist explanation is true, and thus it begs the question against selectionists. By contrast, the selectionist explanation invokes a scientific theory, and thus it (...) is not clear whether it is a realist explanation or an antirealist explanation. Finally, the six new arguments for scientific realism in the literature truly complement the no-miracles argument. (shrink)
Dispositional Essentialism, as commonly conceived, consists in the claims that at least some of the fundamental properties essentially confer certain causal-nomological roles on their bearers, and that these properties give rise to the natural modalities. As such, the view is generally taken to be committed to a realist conception of properties as either universals or tropes, and to be thus incompatible with nominalism as understood in the strict sense. Pace this common assumption of the ontological import of Dispositional Essentialism, the (...) aim of this paper is to explore a nominalist version of the view, Austere Nominalist Dispositional Essentialism. The core features of the proposed account are that it eschews all kinds of properties, takes certain predicative truths as fundamental, and employs the so-called generic notion of essence. As I will argue, the account is significantly closer to the core idea behind Dispositional Essentialism than the only nominalist account in the vicinity of Dispositional Essentialism that has been offered so far—Ann Whittle’s Causal Nominalism—and is immune to crucial problems that affect this view. (shrink)
Scientific realists claim we can justifiably believe that science is getting at the truth. But they have long faced historical challenges: various episodes across history appear to demonstrate that even strongly supported scientific theories can be overturned and left behind. In response, realists have developed new positions and arguments. As a result of specific challenges from the history of science, and realist responses, we find ourselves with an ever increasing data-set bearing on the (possible) relationship between science and truth. The (...) present volume introduces new historical cases impacting the debate, and advances the discussion of cases that have only very recently been introduced. At the same time, shifts in philosophical positions affect the very kind of case study that is relevant. Thus the historical work must proceed hand in hand with philosophical analysis of the different positions and arguments in play. It is with this in mind that the volume is divided into two sections, entitled “Historical cases for the debate,” and “Contemporary scientific realism”. All sides agree that historical cases are informative with regard to how, or whether, science connects with truth. Defying proclamations as early as the 1980s announcing the death knell of the scientific realism debate, here is that rare thing: a philosophical debate making steady and definite progress. Moreover, the progress it is making concerns one of humanity’s most profound and important questions: the relationship between science and truth, or, put more boldly, the epistemic relation between humankind and the reality in which we find ourselves. (shrink)
The aim of this article is to elaborate an objection against the realist argument that, in the debate on scientific realism, is known as the ‘No-Miracles Argument’ (NMA). This argument hinges on the assumption that scientific realism is the philosophy that best explains the success of science. Here, it is objected that if the considerations from scientific pluralism are to be taken seriously, there is no univocal conception of «success» at hand. From this it follows that either we are not (...) able to infer theory’s «truth» from theory’s «success», or that we must accept that science offers several truths about the same inquiry’s domain. I outline three solutions to face this issue: first, to defend the NMA against the pluralist’s objections, nevertheless there is no account in the literature that can meet these objections. Second, either to reconceptualize the notion of «truth» or embrace a metaphysical pluralism, yet these accounts are highly counterintuitive. Finally, to dispense the NMA from scientific realism debate, and, instead, to assume an empiricist pluralism that can account for sciences’ plurality without a compromise with alternative notions of «truth» or metaphysical interpretations of scientific pluralism. (shrink)
I’m grateful to Aleta Quinn and Studies in History and Philosophy of Science for hosting this book forum for my book, The Relativity of Theory (Springer, 2020). I’m also grateful to Margaret Greta Turnbull and Joseph Martin for their commentaries. In what follows, I address their comments as I understand them.
Several metaphysical naturalists argue that the success of science, together with the claim that scientists adhere to methodological naturalism, amounts to strong evidence for metaphysical naturalism. I call this the scientific-success argument. It is argued that the scientific-success argument is similar to the no-miracles argument for realism in philosophy of science. On the no-miracles argument, the success of science is taken as strong evidence that scientific theories are true. Based on this similarity, some considerations relevant to one argument may also (...) be relevant to the other. One particular consideration is explored. The selectionist response to the no-miracles argument states that on an evolutionary model of science, in which scientific theories are accepted only after surviving a rigorous selection process, the no-miracles argument fails. The selectionist response also applies to the scientific-success argument. If scientific theories are selected for success, we do not need to explain the success of science by appealing to metaphysical naturalism. (shrink)
This is the first chapter of Modal Empiricism: Interpreting Science Without Scientific Realism. The debate on scientific realism results from a tension between the empiricist methodology, which is a defining feature of science, and claims to the effect that science can unveil the fundamental nature of reality. What distinguishes realist and anti-realist positions is not necessarily that the former take scientific knowledge “at face value” or take the side of scientists in general while the latter do not. Rather, realists and (...) anti-realists propose different ways of interpreting science as a whole, and in particular its aim, its possible achievements and its content. The aim of this book is to defend an interpretation that potentially applies to each of these three levels: modal empiricism. This position purports to be the articulation of a pragmatist stance towards science. This introductory chapter briefly presents the position, then outlines the structure of the book. (shrink)
Howson famously argues that the no-miracles argument, stating that the success of science indicates the approximate truth of scientific theories, is a base rate fallacy: it neglects the possibility of an overall low rate of true scientific theories. Recently a number of authors has suggested that the corresponding probabilistic reconstruction is unjust, as it concerns only the success of one isolated theory. Dawid and Hartmann, in particular, suggest to use the frequency of success in some field of research \ to (...) infer a probability of truth for a new theory from \. I here shed doubts on the justification of this and similar moves and suggest a way to directly bound the probability of truth. As I will demonstrate, my bound can become incompatible with the assumption specific testing and Dawid and Hartmann’s estimate for success. (shrink)
In this paper I provide a novel argument for scientific realism. In contrast to most recent defenses of SR, my defense of SR does not rely on the no-miracles argument. Instead, I take a more unconventional approach: I focus on the different kinds of justification available to different individuals in relation to different kinds of propositions. I maintain that this alternative focus shows that most people are warranted in believing many propositions about unobservables. The paper is divided into three main (...) sections. In the first, I rehearse the main moves in the recent debate about SR. In the second, I argue that the discussion in section one enables us to see that most of the arguments in the recent debate about SR mistake their target: instead of being about SR, they are about meta-SR. I argue that what I call the JJ-principle should be rejected and, further, that if the JJ-principle is rejected, then meta-SR may be cleaved from SR. This enables me to advance to a position I call thin realism in the third and final section of the paper. (shrink)
A crucial aspect of scientific realism is what do we mean by true. In Luk’s theory and model of scientific study, a theory can be believed to be “true” but a model is only accurate. Therefore, what do we mean by a “true” theory in scientific realism? Here, we focus on exploring the notion of truth by some thought experiments and we come up with the idea that truth is related to what we mean by the same. This has repercussion (...) to the repeatability of the experiments and the predictive power of scientific knowledge. Apart from sameness, we also found that truth is related to the granularity of the observation, the limit of detection, the distinguishability of the objects in theory, the simultaneous measurements of objects/processes, the consistencies of the theory and the one-to-one correspondence between terms/events and objects/processes, respectively. While there is no guarantee that we can arrive at the final “true” theory, we have a process/procedure with more and more experiments together with our own ingenuity, to direct us towards such a “true” theory. For quantum mechanics, since a particle is also regarded as a wave, quantum mechanics cannot be considered as a true theory based on the correspondence theory of truth. Failing this, truth may be defined by the coherence theory of truth which is similar to the coherence of beliefs. However, quantum mechanics may not be believed to be a true theory based on the coherence theory of truth because wave properties and particle properties may contradict. Further research is needed to address this problem if we want to regard quantum mechanics as a “true” theory. (shrink)
Antirealist explanations for the success of science have been widely discussed up to today and have received several formulations. This makes it rather complex to assess them all. The objective of this paper is to help understand and assess the proposal of an anti-realist explanation for science’s success. I show the core assumptions contained in the several anti-realist explanations, how they relate to each other, and which background assumptions are required in order to warrant each position. I argue that, since (...) the many anti-realist explanations are only plausible when maintained conjointly, there is essentially only one anti-realist account to science’s success: scientists find successful (and even fertile) theories because they use methods of theory-selection and theory-construction that preserve only successful theories; the fact that these theories prove themselves successful will not be mysterious if it is conjointly assumed that false theories are often empirically successful. This explanation relies on a semantic and a methodological view concerning the probabilistic relation between success and truth, and also on an epistemic stance regarding the limits of explanatory reasoning. The crucial divergence between realist and antirealist accounts of science's success lies in how probable they assess the possibility of a theory to be false and empirically successful. Since the stale-mate between realist and antirealist explanations results from a prior disagreement about the probabilistic connection between success and truth (or the underdetermination thesis), the challenge raised by the antirealist explanation to realism becomes equivalent to the traditional charge that the no-miracles argument is circular. (shrink)
This book offers a close and rigorous examination of the arguments for and against scientific realism and introduces key positions in the scientific realism/antirealism debate, which is one of the central debates in contemporary philosophy of science. On the one hand, scientific realists argue that we have good reasons to believe that our best scientific theories are approximately true because, if they were not even approximately true, they would not be able to explain and predict natural phenomena with such impressive (...) accuracy. On the other hand, antirealists argue that the success of science does not warrant belief in the approximate truth of our best scientific theories. This is because the history of science is a graveyard of theories that were once successful but were later discarded. The author eventually settles on a middle ground position between scientific realism and antirealism called "relative realism.". (shrink)
Localism is the view that the unit of evaluation in the scientific realism debate is a single scientific discipline, sub-discipline, or claim, whereas individualism is the view that the unit of evaluation is a single scientific theory. Localism is compatible, while individualism is not, with a local pessimistic induction and a local selective induction. Asay presents several arguments to support localism and undercut globalism, according to which the unit of evaluation is the set of all scientific disciplines. I argue that (...) some of his arguments clash with localism as well as with globalism and support individualism, and that individualism goes hand in hand, while localism does not, with the basic rule of how to evaluate an argument. (shrink)
Objetivamos discutir a crítica, avançada por Colin Howson em Hume's problem, segundo a qual o argumento do milagre (doravante, AM) comete a falácia da taxa-base. Por falácia da taxa-base, entende-se a negligência do valor da probabilidade prévia de determinada hipótese ou teoria T, P(T). Por sua vez, em uma de suas versões, AM assere que apenas assumindo que uma teoria científica madura T é aproximadamente verdadeira não faz de seu sucesso preditivo um milagre. Formalizado probabilisticamente, Howson argumenta que a conclusão (...) de AM, a probabilidade de que a teoria T seja aproximadamente verdadeira é grande, apenas se segue se assumirmos para T um valor não-negligenciável. Tal crítica de Howson despertou duas categorias de reação na literatura especializada: supondo que AM comete a falácia da taxa base, alguns autores propuseram abandonar AM enquanto um argumento para a tese epistemológica do realismo científico, ao passo que outros defenderam que apenas uma versão de AM comete a falácia da taxa-base; defendendo que AM não comete a falácia da taxa base, certos autores alegaram alguns problemas na formalização probabilística de AM, enquanto outros buscaram refinar tal formalização de modo que a nova evite a falácia em questão. Tendo apresentado esse estado da arte, investigaremos se a formalização probabilística do argumento do milagre é razoável. Discutiremos se ela acomoda a natureza de inferência à melhor explicação pressuposta no AM. Por fim, indicaremos, brevemente, algumas dificuldades para a crítica de Howson ao assumir-se que AM instancia, na verdade, uma abdução Peirceana. (shrink)
In contemporary philosophy of science, the no-miracles argument and the pessimistic induction are regarded as the strongest arguments for and against scientific realism, respectively. In this paper, I construct a new argument for scientific realism which I call the anti-induction for scientific realism. It holds that, since past theories were false, present theories are true. I provide an example from the history of science to show that anti-inductions sometimes work in science. The anti-induction for scientific realism has several advantages over (...) the no-miracles argument as a positive argument for scientific realism. (shrink)
This chapter examines issues surrounding inference to the best explanation, its justification, and its role in different arguments for scientific realism, as well as more general issues concerning explanations’ ontological commitments. Defending the reliability of inference to the best explanation has been a central plank in various realist arguments, and realists have drawn various ontological conclusions from the premise that a given scientific explanation best explains some phenomenon. This chapter stresses the importance of thinking carefully about the nature of explanation (...) in connection with evaluating realists’ appeals to explanatory reasoning and inference to the best explanation. (shrink)
Many realists argue that present scientific theories will not follow the fate of past scientific theories because the former are more successful than the latter. Critics object that realists need to show that present theories have reached the level of success that warrants their truth. I reply that the special theory of relativity has been repeatedly reinforced by unconceived scientific methods, so it will be reinforced by infinitely many unconceived scientific methods. This argument for the special theory of relativity overcomes (...) the critics’ objection, and has advantages over the no-miracle argument and the selective induction for it. (shrink)
J. D. Trout has recently developed a new defense of scientific realism, a new version of the No Miracles Argument. I critically evaluate Trout’s novel defense of realism. I argue that Trout’s argument for scientific realism and the related explanation for the success of science are self-defeating. In the process of arguing against the traditional realist strategies for explaining the success of science, he inadvertently undermines his own argument.
In this book K. Brad Wray provides a comprehensive survey of the arguments against scientific realism. In addition to presenting logical considerations that undermine the realists' inferences to the likely truth or approximate truth of our theories, he provides a thorough assessment of the evidence from the history of science. He also examines grounds for a defence of anti-realism, including an anti-realist explanation for the success of our current theories, an account of why false theories can be empirically successful, and (...) an explanation for why we should expect radical changes of theory in the future. His arguments are supported and illustrated by cases from the history of science, including a sustained study of the Copernican Revolution, and a study of the revolution in early twentieth century chemistry, when chemists came to classify elements by their atomic number rather than by their atomic weight. (shrink)
The no miracles argument is one of the main arguments for scientific realism. Recently it has been alleged that the no miracles argument is fundamentally flawed because it commits the base rate fallacy. The allegation is based on the idea that the appeal of the no miracles argument arises from inappropriate neglect of the base rate of approximate truth among the relevant population of theories. However, the base rate fallacy allegation relies on an assumption of random sampling of individuals from (...) the population which cannot be made in the case of the no miracles argument. Therefore the base rate fallacy objection to the no miracles argument fails. I distinguish between a “local” and a “global” form of the no miracles argument. The base rate fallacy objection has been leveled at the local version. I argue that the global argument plays a key role in supporting a base-rate-fallacy-free formulation of the local version of the argument. (shrink)
According to a defense of scientific realism known as the “divide et impera move”, mature scientific theories enjoying predictive success are partially true. This paper investigates a paradigmatic historical case: the prediction, based on Fresnel’s wave theory of light, that a bright spot should figure in the shadow of a disc. Two different derivations of this prediction have been given by both Poisson and Fresnel. I argue that the details of these derivations highlight two problems of indispensability arguments, which state (...) that only the indispensable constituents of this success are worthy of belief and retained through theory-change. The first problem is that, contrary to a common claim, Fresnel’s integrals are not needed to predict the bright spot phenomenon. The second problem is that the hypotheses shared by to these two derivations include problematic idealizations. I claim that this example leads us to be skeptical about which aspects of our current theories are worthy of belief. (shrink)
The scientific realism debate has now reached an entirely new level of sophistication. Faced with increasingly focused challenges, epistemic scientific realists have appropriately revised their basic meta-hypothesis that successful scientific theories are approximately true: they have emphasized criteria that render realism far more selective and, so, plausible. As a framework for discussion, I use what I take to be the most influential current variant of selective epistemic realism, deployment realism. Toward the identification of new case studies that challenge this form (...) of realism, I break away from the standard list and look to the history of celestial mechanics, with an emphasis on twentieth century advances. I then articulate two purely deductive arguments that, I argue, properly capture the historical threat to realism. I contend that both the content and form of these novel challenges seriously threaten selective epistemic realism. I conclude on a positive note, however, arguing for selective realism at a higher level. Even in the face of threats to its epistemic tenet, scientific realism need not be rejected outright: concern with belief can be bracketed while nonetheless advocating core realist tenets. I show that, in contrast with epistemic deployment realism, a purely axiological scientific realism can account for key scientific practices made salient in my twentieth century case studies. And embracing the realists favored account of inference, inference to the best explanation, while pointing to a set of the most promising alternative selective realist meta-hypothesis, I show how testing the latter can be immensely valuable to our understanding of science. (shrink)
The pessimistic induction is built upon the uniformity principle that the future resembles the past. In daily scientific activities, however, scientists sometimes rely on what I call the disuniformity principle that the future differs from the past. They do not give up their research projects despite the repeated failures. They believe that they will succeed although they failed repeatedly, and as a result they achieve what they intended to achieve. Given that the disuniformity principle is useful in certain cases in (...) science, we might reasonably use it to infer that present theories are true unlike past theories. Hence, pessimists have the burden to show that our prediction about the fate of present theories is more likely to be true if we use the uniformity principle than if we use the disuniformity principle. (shrink)
The no-miracles argument (Putnam, 1975) holds that science is successful because successful theories are (approximately) true. Frost-Arnold (2010) objects that this argument is unacceptable because it generates neither new predictions nor unifications. It is similar to the unacceptable explanation that opium puts people to sleep because it has a dormative virtue. I reply that on close examination, realism explains not only why some theories are successful but also why successful theories exist in current science. Therefore, it unifies the disparate phenomena.
The pessimistic induction over scientific theories holds that present theories will be overthrown as were past theories. The pessimistic induction over scientists holds that present scientists cannot conceive of future theories just as past scientists could not conceive of present theories. The pessimistic induction over realists :4321–4330, 2013) holds that present realists are wrong about present theories just as past realists were wrong about past theories. The pessimistic induction over antirealist theories :3–21, 2014) holds that the latest antirealist explanation of (...) the success of science :891–901, 2003) has hidden problems just as its eight predecessors did. In this paper, I criticize the pessimistic inductions over scientific theories, scientists, and realists, introduce a pessimistic induction over antirealist theories, and then construct two new pessimistic inductions. One is a pessimistic induction over antirealists according to which the author of the latest antirealist proposal cannot see hidden problems with his proposal just as his antirealist predecessors could not see hidden problems with their proposals. The other is the pessimistic induction over pessimists according to which since past pessimists have been wrong about their present scientific theories from the early twentieth century to the early twenty-first century, future pessimists will also be wrong about their present scientific theories from the early twenty-first century to the early twenty-second century. (shrink)
Structural realists claim that we should endorse only what our scientific theories say about the structure of the unobservable world. But according to Newman’s Objection, the structural realist’s claims about unobservables are trivially true. In recent years, several theorists have offered responses to Newman’s Objection. But a common complaint is that these responses “give up the spirit” of the structural realist position. In this paper, I will argue that the simplest way to respond to Newman’s Objection is to return to (...) one of the standard motivations for adopting structural realism in the first place: the No Miracles Argument. Far from betraying the spirit of structural realism, the solution I present is available to any theorist who endorses this argument. (shrink)
According to an argument by Colin Howson, the no-miracles argument is contingent on committing the base-rate fallacy and is therefore bound to fail. We demonstrate that Howson’s argument only applies to one of two versions of the NMA. The other version, which resembles the form in which the argument was initially presented by Putnam and Boyd, remains unaffected by his line of reasoning. We provide a formal reconstruction of that version of the NMA and show that it is valid. Finally, (...) we demonstrate that the use of subjective priors is consistent with the realist implication of the NMA and show that a core worry with respect to the suggested form of the NMA can be dispelled. (shrink)
According to Ian Hacking’s Entity Realism, unobservable entities that scientists carefully manipulate to study other phenomena are real. Although Hacking presents his case in an intuitive, attractive, and persuasive way, his argument remains elusive. I present five possible readings of Hacking’s argument: a no-miracle argument, an indispensability argument, a transcendental argument, a Vichian argument, and a non-argument. I elucidate Hacking’s argument according to each reading, and review their strengths, their weaknesses, and their compatibility with each other.
Extensional scientific realism is the view that each believable scientific theory is supported by the unique first-order evidence for it and that if we want to believe that it is true, we should rely on its unique first-order evidence. In contrast, intensional scientific realism is the view that all believable scientific theories have a common feature and that we should rely on it to determine whether a theory is believable or not. Fitzpatrick argues that extensional realism is immune, while intensional (...) realism is not, to the pessimistic induction. I reply that if extensional realism overcomes the pessimistic induction at all, that is because it implicitly relies on the theoretical resource of intensional realism. I also argue that extensional realism, by nature, cannot embed a criterion for distinguishing between believable and unbelievable theories. (shrink)
Realism and surrealism claim, respectively, that a scientific theory is successful because it is true, and because the world operates as if it is true. Lyons :891–901, 2003) criticizes realism and argues that surrealism is superior to realism. I reply that Lyons’s criticisms against realism fail. I also attempt to establish the following two claims: Realism and surrealism lead to a useful prescription and a useless prescription, respectively, on how to make an unsuccessful theory successful. Realism and surrealism give the (...) credit for the success of a theory to an appropriate factor and to an inappropriate factor, respectively. Finally, I point out that surrealism is vulnerable to my pessimistic induction :3–21, 2014a) against antirealism. (shrink)
This paper develops a probabilistic reconstruction of the No Miracles Argument in the debate between scientific realists and anti-realists. The goal of the paper is to clarify and to sharpen the NMA by means of a probabilistic formalization. In particular, we demonstrate that the persuasive force of the NMA depends on the particular disciplinary context where it is applied, and the stability of theories in that discipline. Assessments and critiques of "the" NMA, without reference to a particular context, are misleading (...) and should be relinquished. This result has repercussions for recent anti-realist arguments, such as the claim that the NMA commits the base rate fallacy. It also helps to explain the persistent disagreement between realists and anti-realists. (shrink)
Although many aspects of Inference to the Best Explanation have been extensively discussed, very little has so far been said about what it takes for a hypothesis to count as a rival explanatory hypothesis in the context of IBE. The primary aim of this article is to rectify this situation by arguing for a specific account of explanatory rivalry. On this account, explanatory rivals are complete explanations of a given explanandum. When explanatory rivals are conceived of in this way, I (...) argue that IBE is a more plausible and defensible rule of inference than it would otherwise be. The secondary aim of the article is to demonstrate the importance of accounts of explanatory rivalry by examining a prominent philosophical argument in which IBE is employed, viz. the so-called Ultimate Argument for scientific realism. In short, I argue that a well-known objection to the Ultimate Argument due to Arthur Fine fails in virtue of tacitly assuming an account of explanatory rivalry that we have independent reasons to reject. (shrink)
In this article, I argue that arguments from the history of science against scientific realism, like the arguments advanced by P. Kyle Stanford and Peter Vickers, are fallacious. The so-called Old Induction, like Vickers's, and New Induction, like Stanford's, are both guilty of confirmation bias—specifically, of cherry-picking evidence that allegedly challenges scientific realism while ignoring evidence to the contrary. I also show that the historical episodes that Stanford adduces in support of his New Induction are indeterminate between a pessimistic and (...) an optimistic interpretation. For these reasons, these arguments are fallacious, and thus do not pose a serious challenge to scientific realism. (shrink)
Scientific realism (Putnam 1975; Psillos 1999) and relative realism (Mizrahi 2013) claim that successful scientific theories are approximately true and comparatively true, respectively. A theory is approximately true if and only if it is close to the truth. A theory is comparatively true if and only if it is closer to the truth than its competitors are. I argue that relative realism is more skeptical about the claims of science than it initially appears to be and that it can explain (...) neither the success nor the failure of science. Hence, it is not a promising competitor to scientific realism. (shrink)
Taking Arthur Fine’s The Shaky Game as my inspiration, and the recent 25th anniversary of the publication of that work as the occasion to exercise that inspiration, I sketch an alternative to the “Naturalism” prevalent among philosophers of physics. Naturalism is a methodology eventuating in a metaphysics. The methodology is to seek the deep framework assumptions that make the best sense of science; the metaphysics is furnished by those assumptions and supported by their own support of science. The alternative presented (...) here, which I call “Locavoracity,” shares Naturalism’s commitment to making sense of science, but alters Naturalism’s methodology. The Locavore’s sense-making projects are piecemeal, rather than sweeping. The Locavore’s hypothesis is that the collection of local sense-making projects fails to issue a single overarching unifying framework deserving of the title “the metaphysics that makes the best sense of science.” I muster some examples supporting the Locavore hypothesis from the interpretation of quantum field theories. (shrink)
Predictivists use the no miracle argument to argue that “novel” predictions are decisive evidence for theories, while mere accommodation of “old” data cannot confirm to a significant degree. But deductivists claim that since confirmation is a logical theory-data relationship, predicted data cannot confirm more than merely deduced data, and cite historical cases in which known data confirmed theories quite strongly. On the other hand, the advantage of prediction over accommodation is needed by scientific realists to resist Laudan’s criticisms of the (...) no miracle argument. So, if the deductivists are right, the most powerful argument for realism collapses. There seems to be an inescapable contradiction between these prima facie plausible arguments of predictivists and deductivists; but this puzzle can be solved by understanding what exactly counts as novelty, if novel predictions must support the no miracle argument, i.e., if they must be explainable only by the truth of theories. Taking my cues from the use-novelty tradition, I argue that (1) the predicted data must not be used essentially in building the theory or choosing the auxiliary assumptions. This is possible if the theory and its auxiliary assumptions are plausible independently of the predicted data, and I analyze the consequences of this requirement in terms of best explanation of diverse bodies of data. Moreover, the predicted data must be (2) a priori improbable, and (3) heterogeneous to the essentially used data. My proposed notion of novelty, therefore, is not historical, but functional. Hence, deductivists are right that confirmation is independent of time and of historical contingencies such as if the theorist knew a datum, used it, or intended to accommodate it. Predictivists, however, are right that not all consequences confirm equally, and confirmation is not purely a logical theory-data relation, as it crucially involves background epistemic conditions and the notion of best explanation. Conditions (1)–(3) make the difference between prediction and accommodation, and account for the confirming power of theoretical virtues such as non ad-hocness, non-fudging, non-overfitting, independence and consilience. I thus show that functional novelty (a) avoids the deductivist objections to predictivism, (b) is a gradual notion, in accordance with the common intuition that confirmation comes in degrees, and (c) supports the no miracle argument, so vindicating scientific realism. (shrink)
One way to reconstruct the miracle argument for scientific realism is to regard it as a statistical inference: since it is exceedingly unlikely that a false theory makes successful predictions, while it is rather likely that an approximately true theory is predictively successful, it is reasonable to infer that a predictively successful theory is at least approximately true. This reconstruction has led to the objection that the argument embodies a base rate fallacy: by focusing on successful theories one ignores the (...) vast number of false theories some of which will be successful by mere chance.In this paper, I shall argue that the cogency of this objection depends on the explanandum of the miracle argument. It is cogent if what is to be explained is the success of a particular theory. If, however, the explanandum of the argument is the distribution of successful predictions among competing theories, the situation is different. Since the distribution of accidentally successful predictions is independent of the base rate, it is possible to assess the base rate by comparing this distribution to the empirically found distribution of successful predictions among competing theories. (shrink)
Van Fraassen (1980) claims that successful theories exist today because successful theories survive and unsuccessful ones die. Wray (2007, 2010) appeals to Stanford’s new pessimistic induction (2006), arguing that van Fraassen’s selectionist explanation is better than the realist explanation that successful theories exist because they are approximately true. I argue that if the pessimistic induction is correct, then the evolutionary explanation is neither true nor empirically adequate, and that realism is better than selectionism because realism explains more phenomena in science (...) than selectionism. (shrink)
There are nine antirealist explanations of the success of science in the literature. I raise difficulties against all of them except the latest one, and then construct a pessimistic induction that the latest one will turn out to be problematic because its eight forerunners turned out to be problematic. This pessimistic induction is on a par with the traditional pessimistic induction that successful present scientific theories will be revealed to be false because successful past scientific theories were revealed to be (...) false. (shrink)
Suppose that scientific realists believe that a successful theory is approximately true, and that constructive empiricists believe that it is empirically adequate. Whose belief is more likely to be false? The problem of underdetermination does not yield an answer to this question one way or the other, but the pessimistic induction does. The pessimistic induction, if correct, indicates that successful theories, both past and current, are empirically inadequate. It is arguable, however, that they are approximately true. Therefore, scientific realists overall (...) take less epistemic risk than constructive empiricists. (shrink)
Debates about scientific realism are closely connected to almost everything else in the philosophy of science, for they concern the very nature of scientific knowledge. Scientific realism is a positive epistemic attitude toward the content of our best theories and models, recommending belief in both observable and unobservable aspects of the world described by the sciences. This epistemic attitude has important metaphysical and semantic dimensions, and these various commitments are contested by a number of rival epistemologies of science, known collectively (...) as forms of scientific antirealism. This article explains what scientific realism is, outlines its main variants, considers the most common arguments for and against the position, and contrasts it with its most important antirealist counterparts. (shrink)
The recent debate surrounding scientific realism has largely focused on the “no miracles” argument (NMA). Indeed, it seems that most contemporary realists and anti-realists have tied the case for realism to the adequacy of this argument. I argue that it is mistake for realists to let the debate be framed in this way. Realists would be well advised to abandon the NMA altogether and pursue an alternative strategy, which I call the “local strategy”.
On the basis of Levin’s claim that truth is not a scientific explanatory factor, Michel Ghins argues that the “no miracle” argument (NMA) is not scientific, therefore scientific realism is not a scientific hypothesis, and naturalism is wrong. I argue that there are genuine senses of ‘scientific’ and ‘explanation’ in which truth can yield scientific explanations. Hence, the NMA can be considered scientific in the sense that it hinges on a scientific explanation, it follows a typically scientific inferential pattern (IBE), (...) and it is based on an empirical fact (the success of science). Scientific realism, in turn, is scientific in the sense that it is supported both by a meta-level scientific argument (the NMA), and by first level scientific arguments through semantic ascent and generalization. However, both the NMA and scientific realism are not purely scientific, since they go beyond properly scientific concerns, and require additional philosophical reasoning. In turn, naturalism is correct in the sense that philosophy is continuous with science, partly based on it, and potentially equally well warranted. Beside denying the scientific nature of the NMA, Ghins raises some objections to its cogency , to which I reply in the final section. (shrink)