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The Scientific Image$
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Bas. C. van Fraassen

Print publication date: 1980

Print ISBN-13: 9780198244271

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198244274.001.0001

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Arguments Concerning Scientific Realism

Arguments Concerning Scientific Realism

(p.6) 2 Arguments Concerning Scientific Realism
The Scientific Image

Bas C. van Fraassen (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines and criticizes the main arguments offered for scientific realism, here identified as the following view: Science aims to give us, in its theories, a literally true story of what the world is like; and acceptance of a scientific theory involves the belief that it is true. In contrast, constructive empiricism, which also opts for a literal understanding of scientific language, is the following view: Science aims to give us theories which are empirically adequate; and acceptance of a theory involves as belief only that it is empirically adequate (but also has a pragmatic dimension, to be elucidated). Topics examined include the ’theory/observation dichotomy’, observable versus unobservable entities, epistemology and the epistemic community, inference to the best explanation, principle of the common cause, and fictionalism. The views of Smart, Sellars, Reichenbach, Putnam, and Dummett are considered. It is argued that the arguments offered for scientific realism, though telling against logical positivism, do not support it over and against constructive empiricism.

Keywords:   constructive empiricism, Dummett, empirical adequacy, explanation, fictionalism, inference to the best explanation, observation, Putnam, Reichenbach, scientific realism, Sellars, Smart, theory/observation dichotomy

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