To Believe in Belief

Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 37 (1):21-39 (2006)
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Abstract

Take the following version of scientific realism: we have good reason to believe that (some of the) current scientific theories tell us something specific about the underlying, i.e. unobservable, structures of the world, for instance that there are electrons with a certain electric charge, or that there are viruses that cause certain diseases. Popper, the rationalist, would not have adhered to the proposed formulation of scientific realism in terms of the rationality of existential beliefs concerning unobservables. Popper did not believe in belief. According to Van Fraassen, the empiricist, one may yet have a rational existential belief concerning unobservables, given a liberal notion of rationality of belief. In this paper I will investigate to what extent a reassessment of both Popper’s rejection of the rationality of belief and Van Fraassen’s reformulation of the rationality of belief, points towards a new and pragmatist dissolution of the ‘problem of scientific realism’

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