Scientific perspectivism: realism, antirealism, or a new paradigm? / Научный перспективизм: реализм, антиреализм или новая парадигма?

Tomsk State University Journal of Philosophy, Sociology and Political Science 70 (4):80-90 (2022)
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Abstract

The current state of philosophy of science is characterized by stasis in the struggle between realism and antirealism. In recent years, a number of authors have come out with a program of scientific perspectivism that claims to sublate this great collision and gain the status of a new epistemological paradigm: “perspectivism, or, better, perspectival realism, is one of the newest attempts to find a middle ground between scientific realism and antirealism” [1. P. 2]. Important milestones of the perspective movement were the works of Ronald Giere, Francois Recanati, Bas van Fraassen, Michela Massimi, and others. The thesis of the article is that perspectivism has not yet realized its claims to autonomy, although it has become an important new arena for discussions between realists and antirealists who try to appropriate perspectivist concepts and arguments. The “middle ground,” when thought out consistently and thoroughly, turns out to lie not “between,” but either in the territory of realism or in the territory of antirealism, depending on the presumptions of the author of a particular perspectivist conception. This is demonstrated by the analysis of the conceptions of Giere, Massimi, and Recanati. Giere’s perspectivism is based on the metaphor of color vision, and for him only some (secondary) qualities of real objects turn out to be perspectival, i.e., subject-dependent. Massimi’s perspectivism attempts, on the basis of a visual arts metaphor, to combine the phenomenon of the plurality of scientific theories (“perspectival disagreement” about what an object is) with the general realist attitude of science (agreement about that there is an object). Recanati’s perspectivism syncretizes realism about ordinary objects and relativism about other things. The first two versions of perspectivism rely on a perceptual metaphor: perspective is conditioned by the perceptual constitution of the observer, that is, it arises at the mental or cognitive level. Recanati’s version attempts to derive perspective from contextuality, that is, it is semantic. However, it does not show exactly how perceptual categories are superimposed on theories or how scientific concepts reveal their perspectival character. The isomorphism of perception and theoretical thinking, sensibility and understanding, remains undemonstrated. On the one hand, perspectivist efforts are motivated by an important concern to account for antirealist critique (lack of access to the “view from nowhere,” factual and semantic underdetermination, difficulties with the idea of approaching the truth, the historicity of knowledge, the activeness of the constructing subject, etc.) while preserving the scientific commitment to universality, validity, and truthfulness. On the other hand, the ontological question remains fundamental and unavoidable, and perspectivism (yet?) fails to circumvent it. As we see, all three versions of perspectivism considered in this article turn out to be varieties of realism: Giere and Massimi recognize this explicitly, while Recanati de facto assumes a quite respectable and conservative position of selective realism with respect to ordinary objects.

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Vadim Chaly
Moscow State University

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References found in this work

Reason, truth, and history.Hilary Putnam - 1981 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Scientific Representation: Paradoxes of Perspective.Bas C. Van Fraassen - 2008 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK.
Scientific perspectivism.Ronald N. Giere - 2006 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Perspectival realism.Michela Massimi - 2022 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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