Recent Debates Over Structural Realism

Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 37 (2):209-224 (2006)
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In recent years Structural Realism has been revived as a compromise candidate to resolve the long-standing question of scientific realism. Recent debate over structural realism originates with Worrall’s (1989) paper “Structural Realism: The best of Both Worlds”. However, critics such as Psillos contend that structural realism incorporates an untenable distinction between structure and nature, and is therefore unworkable. In this paper I consider three versions of structural realism that purport to avoid such criticism. The first is Chakravartty’s “semirealism” which proceeds by trying to show that structural realism and entity realism entail one another. I demonstrate that this position will not work, but follow Chakravartty’s contention that structural realism need not imply that scientific knowledge can only be of mathematical structure. I advance from this conclusion to sketch a version of structural realism that is consistent with recent deflationary approaches to the scientific realism question. Finally, I consider a third approach to structural realism Ladyman’s “metaphysical structural realism” which tries to avoid the difficulties of earlier versions by taking structure to be ontologically primary. I show that the deflationary approach to structural realism undermines the rationale behind Ladyman’s approach.



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Daniel McArthur
York University

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References found in this work

What is structural realism?James Ladyman - 1998 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 29 (3):409-424.
Representing and Intervening.Ian Hacking - 1987 - Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale 92 (2):279-279.

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