Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2011)
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.