Moral Realism is a systematic defence of the idea that there are objective moral standards. Russ Shafer-Landau argues that there are moral principles that are true independently of what anyone, anywhere, happens to think of them. His central thesis, as well as the many novel supporting arguments used to defend it, will spark much controversy among those concerned with the foundations of ethics.
Scientific Realism is the optimistic view that modern science is on the right track: that the world really is the way our best scientific theories describe it to be. In his book, Stathis Psillos gives us a detailed and comprehensive study, which restores the intuitive plausibility of scientific realism. We see that throughout the twentieth century, scientific realism has been challenged by philosophical positions from all angles: from reductive empiricism, to instrumentalism and modern skeptical empiricism. Scientific (...) class='Hi'>Realism explains that the history of science does not undermine the notion of scientific realism, and instead makes it reasonable to accept scientific as the best philosophical account of science, its empirical success, its progress and its practice. Anyone wishing to gain a deeper understanding of the state of modern science and why scientific realism is plausible, should read this book. (shrink)
This paper provides a critical overview of the realist current in contemporary political philosophy. We define political realism on the basis of its attempt to give varying degrees of autonomy to politics as a sphere of human activity, in large part through its exploration of the sources of normativity appropriate for the political and so distinguish sharply between political realism and non-ideal theory. We then identify and discuss four key arguments advanced by political realists: from ideology, from the (...) relationship of ethics to politics, from the priority of legitimacy over justice and from the nature of political judgement. Next, we ask to what extent realism is a methodological approach as opposed to a substantive political position and so discuss the relationship between realism and a few such positions. We close by pointing out the links between contemporary realism and the realist strand that runs through much of the history of Western political thought. (shrink)
The no-miracles argument for realism and the pessimistic meta-induction for anti-realism pull in opposite directions. Structural Realism---the position that the mathematical structure of mature science reflects reality---relieves this tension.
This is the third volume of Hilary Putnam's philosophical papers, published in paperback for the first time. The volume contains his major essays from 1975 to 1982, which reveal a large shift in emphasis in the 'realist'_position developed in his earlier work. While not renouncing those views, Professor Putnam has continued to explore their epistemological consequences and conceptual history. He now, crucially, sees theories of truth and of meaning that derive from a firm notion of reference as inadequate.
Following on from Roy Bhaskar’s first two books, A Realist Theory of Science and The Possibility of Naturalism, Scientific Realism and Human Emancipation, establishes the conception of social science as explanatory—and thence emancipatory—critique. _Scientific Realism and Human Emancipation_ starts from an assessment of the impasse of contemporary accounts of science as stemming from an incomplete critique of positivism. It then proceeds to a systematic exposition of scientific realism in the form of transcendental realism, highlighting a conception (...) of science as explanatory of a structured, differentiated and changing world. Turning to the social domain, the book argues for a view of the social order as conditioned by, and emergent from, nature. Advocating a critical naturalism, the author shows how the transformational model of social activity together with the conception of social science as explanatory critique which it entails, resolves the divisions and dualisms besetting orthodox social and normative theory: between society and the individual, structure and agency, meaning and behavior, mind and body, reason and cause, fact and value, and theory and practice. The book then goes on to discuss the emancipatory implications of social science and sketches the nature of the depth investigation characteristically entailed. In the highly innovative third part of the book Roy Bhaskar completes his critique of positivism by developing a theory of philosophical discourse and ideology, on the basis of the transcendental realism and critical naturalism already developed, showing how positivism functions as a restrictive ideology of and for science and other social practices. (shrink)
Scientific realism is the position that the aim of science is to advance on truth and increase knowledge about observable and unobservable aspects of the mind-independent world which we inhabit. This book articulates and defends that position. In presenting a clear formulation and addressing the major arguments for scientific realism Sankey appeals to philosophers beyond the community of, typically Anglo-American, analytic philosophers of science to appreciate and understand the doctrine. The book emphasizes the epistemological aspects of scientific (...) class='Hi'>realism and contains an original solution to the problem of induction that rests on an appeal to the principle of uniformity of nature. (shrink)
Publisher's description: The realistic spirit, a nonmetaphysical approach to philosophical thought concerned with the character of philosophy itself, informs all of the discussions in these essays by philosopher Cora Diamond. Diamond explains Wittgenstein's notoriously elusive later writings, explores the background to his thought in the work of Frege, and discusses ethics in a way that reflects his influence. Diamond's new reading of Wittgenstein challenges currently accepted interpretations and shows what it means to look without mythology at the coherence, commitments, and (...) connections that are distinctive of the mind. (shrink)
In this paper I trace the development of one of the central debates of late twentieth-century moral philosophy—the debate between realism and what Rawls called “constructivism.” Realism, I argue, is a reactive position that arises in response to almost every attempt to give a substantive explanation of morality. It results from the realist’s belief that such explanations inevitably reduce moral phenomena to natural phenomena. I trace this belief, and the essence of realism, to a view about the (...) nature of concepts—that it is the function of all concepts to describe reality. Constructivism may be understood as the alternative view that a normative concept refers schematically to the solution to a practical problem. A constructivist account of a concept, unlike a traditional analysis, is an attemptto work out the solution to that problem. I explain how the philosophies of Kant and Rawls can be understood on this model. (shrink)
We outline Ladyman's 'metaphysical' or 'ontic' form of structuralrealism and defend it against various objections. Cao, in particular, has questioned theview of ontology presupposed by this approach and we argue that by reconceptualisingobjects in structural terms it offers the best hope for the realist in thecontext of modern physics.
Structural realism is considered by many realists and antirealists alike as the most defensible form of scientific realism. There are now many forms of structural realism and an extensive literature about them. There are interesting connections with debates in metaphysics, philosophy of physics and philosophy of mathematics. This entry is intended to be a comprehensive survey of the field.
This paper outlines an account of political realism as a form of ideology critique. Our focus is a defence of the normative edge of this critical-theoretic project against the common charge that there is a problematic trade-off between a theory’s groundedness in facts about the political status quo and its ability to consistently envisage radical departures from the status quo. To overcome that problem we combine insights from three distant corners of the philosophical landscape: theories of legitimacy by Bernard (...) Williams and other realists, Frankfurt School-inspired Critical Theory, and recent analytic epistemological and metaphysical theories of cognitive bias, ideology, and social construction. The upshot is a novel account of realism as empirically-informed diagnosis- critique of social and political phenomena. This view rejects a sharp divide between descriptive and normative theory, and so is an alternative to the anti- empiricism of some approaches to Critical Theory as well as to the complacency towards existing power structures found within liberal realism, let alone mainstream normative political philosophy, liberal or otherwise. (shrink)
Anti-realism is a doctrine about logic, language, and meaning that is based on the work of Wittgenstein and Frege. In this book, Professor Tennant clarifies and develops Dummett's arguments for anti-realism and ultimately advocates a radical reform of our logical practices.
In this major new work, Matthew Kramer seeks to establish two main conclusions. On the one hand, moral requirements are strongly objective. On the other hand, the objectivity of ethics is itself an ethical matter that rests primarily on ethical considerations. Moral realism - the doctrine that morality is indeed objective - is a moral doctrine. Major new volume in our new series _New Directions in Ethics_ Takes on the big picture - defending the objectivity of ethics whilst rejecting (...) the grounds of much of the existing debate between realists and anti-realists Cuts across both ethical theory and metaethics Distinguished by the quality of the scholarship and its ambitious range. (shrink)
This book is a systematic and constructive treatment of a number of traditional issues at the foundation of ethics, the possibility and nature of moral knowledge, the relationship between the moral point of view and a scientific or naturalistic world view, the nature of moral value and obligation, and the role of morality in a person's rational life plan. In striking contrast to many traditional authors and to other recent writers in the field, David Brink offers an integrated defense of (...) the objectivity of ethics. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to revisit the phlogiston theory to see what can be learned from it about the relationship between scientific realism, approximate truth and successful reference. It is argued that phlogiston theory did to some extent correctly describe the causal or nomological structure of the world, and that some of its central terms can be regarded as referring. However, it is concluded that the issue of whether or not theoretical terms successfully refer is not the (...) key to formulating the appropriate form of scientific realism in response to arguments from theory change, and that the case of phlogiston theory is shown to be readily accommodated by ontic structural realism. (shrink)
In recent decades, a ‘realist’ alternative to ideal theories of politics has slowly taken shape. Bringing together philosophers, political theorists, and political scientists, this countermovement seeks to reframe inquiry into politics and political norms. Among the hallmarks of this endeavor are a moral psychology that includes the passions and emotions; a robust conception of political possibility and rejection of utopian thinking; the belief that political conflict — of values as well as interests — is both fundamental and ineradicable; a focus (...) on institutions as the arenas within which conflict is mediated and contained; and a conception of politics as a sphere of activity that is distinct, autonomous, and subject to norms that cannot be derived from individual morality. For political realists, a ‘well-ordered society’ is rarely attainable; a modus vivendi without agreement on first principles is often the only practical possibility. Not only will ‘full compliance’ never be achieved, but also it is an assumption that yields misleading accounts of political norms. While realists offer a number of compelling criticisms of ideal theory, there are some lacunae in their stance. It is not yet clear whether realism constitutes a coherent affirmative alternative to idealism. Nor have realists clarified the extent of conflict that is consistent with political order as such. And because both sides accept ‘ought implies can’ as a constraint on the validity of political norms, much of the debate between realists and idealists revolves around deep empirical disagreements that are yet to be clarified. (shrink)
One of the more debated topics in the recent realist literature concerns the compatibility of realism and utopianism. Perhaps the greatest challenge to utopian political thought comes from Bernard Williams' realism, which argues, among other things, that political values should be subject to what he calls the ‘realism constraint’, which rules out utopian arguments based on values which cannot be offered by the state as unrealistic and therefore inadmissible. This article challenges that conclusion in two ways. First, (...) it argues that the rationale for accepting Williams' original argument for the ‘realism constraint’ fails. Secondly, it argues that there is at least one genuinely political value of liberty available which is both compatible with realism and something that cannot be offered by the state, namely that of the political anarchist. This opens the way for far more ambitious and utopian forms of realist political thought and implies that the arguments of what we call political anarchists must be met by political argumentation, not simply ruled out by methodological stipulation. (shrink)
The target article is an attempt to make some progress on the problem of color realism. Are objects colored? And what is the nature of the color properties? We defend the view that physical objects (for instance, tomatoes, radishes, and rubies) are colored, and that colors are physical properties, specifically types of reflectance. This is probably a minority opinion, at least among color scientists. Textbooks frequently claim that physical objects are not colored, and that the colors are "subjective" or (...) "in the mind." The article has two other purposes: first, to introduce an interdisciplinary audience to some distinctively philosophical tools that are useful in tackling the problem of color realism and, second, to clarify the various positions and central arguments in the debate. (shrink)
SummaryThe main argument for scientific realism is that our present theories in science are so successful empirically that they can't have got that way by chance ‐ instead they must somehow have latched onto the blueprint of the universe. The main argument against scientific realism is that there have been enormously successful theories which were once accepted but are now regarded as false. The central question addressed in this paper is whether there is some reasonable way to have (...) the best of both worlds: to give the argument from scientific revolutions its full weight and yet still adopt some sort of realist attitude towards presently accepted theories in physics and elsewhere. I argue that there is such a way ‐ through structural realism, a position adopted by Poincare, and here elaborated and defended. (shrink)
Mathematicians tend to think of themselves as scientists investigating the features of real mathematical things, and the wildly successful application of mathematics in the physical sciences reinforces this picture of mathematics as an objective study. For philosophers, however, this realism about mathematics raises serious questions: What are mathematical things? Where are they? How do we know about them? Offering a scrupulously fair treatment of both mathematical and philosophical concerns, Penelope Maddy here delineates and defends a novel version of mathematical (...)realism. She answers the traditional questions and poses a challenging new one, refocusing philosophical attention on the pressing foundational issues of contemporary mathematics. (shrink)
Since the publication of Roy Bhaskar's A Realist Theory of Science in 1975, critical realism has emerged as one of the most powerful new directions in the philosophy of science and social science, offering a real alternative to both positivism and postmodernism. This reader makes accessible in one volume key readings to stimulate debate about and within critical realism, including: the transcendental realist philosophy of science elaborated in A Realist Theory of Science ; Bhaskar's critical naturalist philosophy of (...) social science; the theory of explanatory critique, which is central to critical realism; and the theme of dialectic, which is central to Bhaskar's most recent writings. The volume includes extracts from Bhaskar's most important books, as well as selections from all of the other most important contributors to the critical realist program. It also includes both a general introduction and original introductions to each section. (shrink)
This book expounds the transcendental realist theory of science and critical naturalist social philosophy that have been developed by Bhaskar and are used by many contemporary social scientists. It defends Bhaskar's view that the possibility and necessity of experiment show that reality is structured and stratified, his use of this idea to develop a non-reductive explanatory account of human sciences, and his notion that to explain social structures can sometimes be to criticize them. After a discussion of the uses of (...) critical realism in controversial areas of social science, Bhaskar's optimism about the prospects of human sciences is criticized. (shrink)
A century after the discovery of quantum mechanics, the meaning of quantum mechanics still remains elusive. This is largely due to the puzzling nature of the wave function, the central object in quantum mechanics. If we are realists about quantum mechanics, how should we understand the wave function? What does it represent? What is its physical meaning? Answering these questions would improve our understanding of what it means to be a realist about quantum mechanics. In this survey article, I review (...) and compare several realist interpretations of the wave function. They fall into three categories: ontological interpretations, nomological interpretations, and the sui generis interpretation. For simplicity, I will focus on non-relativistic quantum mechanics. (shrink)
Non-naturalist realists are committed to the belief, famously voiced by Parfit, that if there are no non-natural facts then nothing matters. But it is morally objectionable to conditionalise all our moral commitments on the question of whether there are non-natural facts. Non-natural facts are causally inefficacious, and so make no difference to the world of our experience. And to be a realist about such facts is to hold that they are mind-independent. It is compatible with our experiences that there are (...) no non-natural facts, or that they are very different from what we think. As Nagel says, realism makes scepticism intelligible. So the non-naturalist must hold that you might be wrong that your partner matters, even if you are correct about every natural, causal fact about your history and relationship. But to hold that conditional attitude to your partner would be a moral betrayal. So believing non-naturalist realism involves doing something immoral. (shrink)
We report the results of a study that investigated the views of researchers working in seven scientific disciplines and in history and philosophy of science in regard to four hypothesized dimensions of scientific realism. Among other things, we found that natural scientists tended to express more strongly realist views than social scientists, that history and philosophy of science scholars tended to express more antirealist views than natural scientists, that van Fraassen’s characterization of scientific realism failed to cluster with (...) more standard characterizations, and that those who endorsed the pessimistic induction were no more or less likely to endorse antirealism. (shrink)
Early twentieth-century philosophers of perception presented their naïve realist views of perceptual experience in anti-Kantian terms. For they took naïve realism about perceptual experience to be incompatible with Kant’s claims about the way the understanding is necessarily involved in perceptual consciousness. This essay seeks to situate a naïve realist account of visual experience within a recognisably Kantian framework by arguing that a naïve realist account of visual experience is compatible with the claim that the understanding is necessarily involved in (...) the perceptual experience of those rational beings with discursive intellects. The resultant view is middle way between recent conceptualist and non-conceptualist interpretations of Kant, holding that the understanding is necessarily involved in the kind of perceptual consciousness that we, as rational beings, enjoy whilst allowing that the relations of apprehension which constitute perceptual consciousness are independent of acts of the understanding. (shrink)
Individual realism asserts that our best scientific theories are (approximately) true. In contrast, selective realism asserts that only the stable posits of our best scientific theories are true. Hence, individual realism recommends that we accept more of what our best scientific theories say about the world than selective realism does. The more scientists believe what their theories say about the world, the more they are motivated to exercise their imaginations and think up new theories and experiments. (...) Therefore, individual realism better fosters scientific creativity than selective realism. (shrink)
A realistic and dialectical conception of the epistemology of science is advanced according to which the acquisition of instrumental knowledge is parasitic upon the acquisition, by successive approximation, of theoretical knowledge. This conception is extended to provide an epistemological characterization of reference and of natural kinds, and it is integrated into recent naturalistic treatments of knowledge. Implications for several current issues in the philosophy of science are explored.
In a recent paper, Berger and Nanay consider, and reject, three ways of addressing the phenomenon of unconscious perception within a naïve realist framework. Since these three approaches seem to exhaust the options open to naïve realists, and since there is said to be excellent evidence that perception of the same fundamental kind can occur, both consciously and unconsciously, this is seen to present a problem for the view. We take this opportunity to show that all three approaches considered remain (...) perfectly plausible ways of addressing unconscious perception within a naïve realist framework. So far from undermining the credibility of naïve realism, Berger and Nanay simply draw our attention to an important question to be considered by naïve realists in future work. Namely, which of the approaches considered is most likely to provide an accurate account of unconscious perception in each of its purported incarnations? (shrink)
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. (shrink)
This paper gives a critical evaluation of the philosophical presuppositions and implications of two current schools in the sociology of knowledge: the Strong Programme of Bloor and Barnes; and the Constructivism of Latour and Knorr-Cetina. Bloor's arguments for his externalist symmetry thesis (i.e., scientific beliefs must always be explained by social factors) are found to be incoherent or inconclusive. At best, they suggest a Weak Programme of the sociology of science: when theoretical preferences in a scientific community, SC, are first (...) internally explained by appealing to the evidence, e, and the standards or values, V, accepted in SC, then a sociologist may sometimes step in to explain why e and V were accepted in SC. Latour's story about the social construction of facts in scientific laboratories is found to be misleading or incredible. The idea that scientific reality is an artifact turns out to have some interesting affinities with classical pragmatism, instrumentalism, phenomenology, and internal realism. However, the constructivist account of theoretical entities in terms of negotiation and social consensus is less plausible than the alternative realist story which explains consensus by the preexistence of mind-independent real entities. The author concludes that critical scientific realism, developed with the concept of truthlikeness, is compatible with the thesis that scientific beliefs or knowledge claims may be relative to various types of cognitive and practical interests. However, the realist denies, with good reasons, the stronger type of relativism which takes reality and truth to be relative to persons, groups, or social interests. (shrink)
My philosophical intuitions are those of a scientific realist. In addition to being realist in its philosophical outlook, my philosophy of economics also aspires to be realistic in the sense of being descriptively adequate, or at least normatively non-utopian, about economics as a scientific discipline. The special challenge my philosophy of economics must meet is to provide a scientific realist account that is realistic of a discipline that deals with a complex subject matter and operates with highly unrealistic models. Unrealisticness (...) in economic models must not constitute an obstacle to realism about those models. What follows is a selective and somewhat abstract summary of my thinking about economics, outlined from two perspectives: first historical and autobiographical, then systematic and comparative. The first angle helps understand motives and trajectories of ideas against their backgrounds in intellectual history. My story turns out to have both unique and generalizable aspects. The second approach outlines some of the key concepts and arguments as well as their interrelations in my philosophy of economics, with occasional comparisons to other views. More space will be devoted to this second perspective than to the first. (shrink)
Broadly speaking, the contemporary scientific realist is concerned to justify belief in what we might call theoretical truth, which includes truth based on ampliative inference and truth about unobservables. Many, if not most, contemporary realists say scientific realism should be treated as ‘an overarching scientific hypothesis’ (Putnam 1978, p. 18). In its most basic form, the realist hypothesis states that theories enjoying general predictive success are true. This hypothesis becomes a hypothesis to be tested. To justify our belief in (...) the realist hypothesis, realists commonly put forward an argument known as the ‘no-miracles argument’. With respect to the basic hypothesis this argument can be stated as follows: it would be a miracle were our theories as successful as they are, were they not true; the only possible explanation for the general predictive success of our scientific theories is that they are true. (shrink)
Ihde's book breaks new ground and... makes an important debate accessible." —Robert Ackermann Instrumental Realism has three principal aims: to advocate a "praxis-perception" approach to the philosophy of science; to explore ways in which ...
SummaryThis paper addresses the question of what scientific realism implies and what it does not when it is articulated so as to provide the best defense against plausible philosophical alternatives. A summary is presented of “abductive” arguments for scientific realism, and of the epistemological and semantic conceptions upon which they depend. Taking these arguments to be the best current defense of realism, it is inquired what, in the sense just mentioned, realism implies and what it does (...) not. It is concluded that realism implies the strong rejection of epistemological foundationalism, a non‐Humean conception of causation and of explanation, and a causal rather than conceptual account of the unity of natural definitions. It is denied that realism implies bivalence or the existence of one true theory, one preferred vocabulary or one distinctly privileged science. It is further denied that realism implies that there are no unrecognized conventional aspects to scientific theorizing and it is denied that realism implies that scientists routinely do good experimental metaphysics. (shrink)
Realism and surrealism claim, respectively, that a scientific theory is successful because it is true, and because the world operates as if it is true. Lyons :891–901, 2003) criticizes realism and argues that surrealism is superior to realism. I reply that Lyons’s criticisms against realism fail. I also attempt to establish the following two claims: Realism and surrealism lead to a useful prescription and a useless prescription, respectively, on how to make an unsuccessful theory successful. (...)Realism and surrealism give the credit for the success of a theory to an appropriate factor and to an inappropriate factor, respectively. Finally, I point out that surrealism is vulnerable to my pessimistic induction :3–21, 2014a) against antirealism. (shrink)
The paper presents a realist account of the epistemic objectivity of science. Epistemic objectivity is distinguished from ontological objectivity and the objectivity of truth. As background, T.S. Kuhn’s idea that scientific theory-choice is based on shared scientific values with a role for both objective and subjective factors is discussed. Kuhn’s values are epistemologically ungrounded, hence provide a minimal sense of objectivity. A robust account of epistemic objectivity on which methodological norms are reliable means of arriving at the truth is presented. (...) The problem remains that deliberative judgement is required to determine the relevance and relative significance of a range of methodological norms. A role is sketched for cognitive virtues which may be exercised in the course of the deliberative judgement. (shrink)
Many people accept, at least implicitly, what I call the asymmetry claim: the view that moral realism is more defensible than aesthetic realism. This article challenges the asymmetry claim. I argue that it is surprisingly hard to find points of contrast between the two domains that could justify their very different treatment with respect to realism. I consider five potentially promising ways to do this, and I argue that all of them fail. If I am right, those (...) who accept the asymmetry claim have a significant burden of proof. (shrink)
Among the most serious challenges to scientific realism are arguments for the underdetermination of theory by evidence. This paper defends a version of scientific realism against what is perhaps the most influential recent argument of this sort, viz. Kyle Stanford’s New Induction over the History of Science. An essential part of the defense consists in a probabilistic analysis of the slogan “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”. On this basis it is argued that the likelihood of (...) a theory being underdetermined depends crucially on social and historical factors, such as the structure of scientific communities and the time that has passed since the theory first became accepted. This is then shown to serve as the epistemological foundation for a version of scientific realism which avoids Stanford’s New Induction in a principled and non-question-begging way. (shrink)
String theory promises to be able to provide us with a working theory of quantum gravity and a unified description of all fundamental forces. In string theory there are so called ‘dualities’; i.e. different theoretical formulations that are physically equivalent. In this article these dualities are investigated from a philosophical point of view. Semantic and epistemic questions relating to the problem of underdetermination of theories by data and the debate on realism concerning scientific theories are discussed. Depending on ones (...) views on semantic issues and realism different interpretations are possible of the dualities. (shrink)
Some naturalistic philosophers of mind subscribing to the predictive processing theory of mind have adopted a realist attitude towards the results of Bayesian cognitive science. In this paper, we argue that this realist attitude is unwarranted. The Bayesian research program in cognitive science does not possess special epistemic virtues over alternative approaches for explaining mental phenomena involving uncertainty. In particular, the Bayesian approach is not simpler, more unifying, or more rational than alternatives. It is also contentious that the Bayesian approach (...) is overall better supported by the empirical evidence. So, to develop philosophical theories of mind on the basis of a realist interpretation of results from Bayesian cognitive science is unwarranted. Naturalistic philosophers of mind should instead adopt an anti-realist attitude towards these results and remain agnostic as to whether Bayesian models are true. For continuing on with an exclusive focus and praise of Bayes within debates about the predictive processing theory will impede progress in philosophical understanding of scientific practice in computational cognitive science as well as of the architecture of the mind. (shrink)
Political realism is characterised by fidelity to the facts of politics and a refusal to derive political judgments from pre- political moral commitments. Even when they are not taken to make normative theorising impossible or futile, those characteristics are often thought to engender a conservative slant, or at least a tendency to prefer incremental reformism to radicalism. I resist those claims by distinguishing between three variants of realism—ordorealism, contextual realism, and radical realism—and contrasting them with both (...) non-ideal theory and utopianism. I then develop a version of radical realism as a form of debunking and vindicatory genealogy. Even though this new approach eschews both feasibility constraints (unlike non-ideal theory) and prescriptions about the ideal society (unlike utopianism), I show how it has more radical potential than morality-driven (and hence often ideological) political theory, and how it supports both open-ended, radical social critique and concrete forms of prefigurative political action. (shrink)
A popular and plausible response against Laudan's “pessimistic induction” has been what I call “preservative realism,” which argues that there have actually been enough elements of scientific knowledge preserved through major theory‐change processes, and that those elements can be accepted realistically. This paper argues against preservative realism, in particular through a critical review of Psillos's argument concerning the case of the caloric theory of heat. Contrary to his argument, the historical record of the caloric theory reveals that beliefs (...) about the properties of material caloric, rejected by subsequent theories, were indeed central to the successes of the caloric theory. Therefore caloric remains a favorable case for Laudan. Further, I argue that even confirmed cases of preservation do not warrant an inference to truth. (shrink)
This article endeavors to identify the strongest versions of the two primary arguments against epistemic scientific realism: the historical argument—generally dubbed “the pessimistic meta-induction”—and the argument from underdetermination. It is shown that, contrary to the literature, both can be understood as historically informed but logically validmodus tollensarguments. After specifying the question relevant to underdetermination and showing why empirical equivalence is unnecessary, two types of competitors to contemporary scientific theories are identified, both of which are informed by science itself. With (...) the content and structure of the two nonrealist arguments clarified, novel relations between them are uncovered, revealing the severity of their collective threat against epistemic realism and its “no-miracles” argument. The final section proposes, however, that the realist’s axiological tenet “science seeks truth” is not blocked. An attempt is made to indicate the promise for a nonepistemic, purely axiological scientific realism—here dubbed “Socratic scientific realism.”. (shrink)