Realism, antirealism, and theoretical conservatism

Synthese 201 (1):1-18 (2023)
  Copy   BIBTEX


This paper contributes to the debate on the question of whether a systematic connection obtains between one’s commitment to realism or antirealism and one’s attitude towards the possibility of radical theoretical novelty, namely, theory change affecting our best, most successful theories (see, e.g., Stanford in Synthese 196:3915–3932, 2019; Dellsén in Stud Hist Philos Sci 76:30–38, 2019). We argue that it is not allegiance to realism or antirealism as such that primarily dictates one’s response to the possibility of radical theoretical novelty: what matters the most is, rather, the proposed alternative’s promise to realize one’s favored cognitive aim(s). Our argument tells not only against Stanford’s account of how adherence to realism or antirealism orients how one responds to possible radical theoretical novelty, but also against what we call the “natural pairing thesis.” According to such a thesis, which has kept resurfacing in the history of the philosophy of science, one-to-one pairings obtain between realism/antirealism, on the one hand, and theoretical conservatism/openness to radical theoretical novelty, on the other hand. As our argument suggests, however, when faced with the possibility of radical theoretical novelty, realists can respond either in a conservative way or by being open to theory change, not unlike antirealists.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 92,227

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Consciousness and realism.David Leech Anderson - 2007 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 14 (1):1-17.
Scientific Realism and Antirealism.Liston Michael - 2016 - Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Scientific Realism and Antirealism.Michael Liston - 2016 - Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Realismus und unübersetzbare Sprachen.Sebastian Gäb - 2018 - Zeitschrift für Philosophische Forschung 72 (3):382-409.
Could Theoretical Entities Save Realism?Mohamed Elsamahi - 1994 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1994:173-180.
Realism/Antirealism and Epistemology.Christopher B. Kulp (ed.) - 1997 - Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Realism Vs Antirealism: The Venue of the Linguistic Consensus.Edward Pols - 1990 - Review of Metaphysics 43 (4):717 - 749.


Added to PP

32 (#502,492)

6 months
13 (#200,551)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author Profiles

Luca Tambolo
Università degli Studi di Trieste (PhD)
Gustavo Cevolani
IMT School For Advanced Studies Lucca

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations