, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 17-31
Date: 13 May 2011

Semantic Challenges to Scientific Realism

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This paper is concerned with connections between scientific and metaphysical realism. It is not difficult to show that scientific realism, as expounded by Psillos (1999) clearly qualifies as a kind of metaphysical realism in the sense of Putnam (1980). The statement of scientific realism therefore must not only deal with underdetermination and the dynamics of scientific theories but also answer the semantic challenges to metaphysical realism. As will be argued, the common core of these challenges is the proposition that a (metaphysical) realist semantics leads to semantic agnosticism in the sense that we are unable to grasp the proper meanings and referents of our linguistic expressions. Having established this, I will focus more specifically on the question of whether scientific realism—in its state-of-the-art account—has the resources to make reference to scientific concepts intelligible such that the semantic challenges can be answered.