Foundations of Science

, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 605–615 | Cite as

In Defense of Realism and Selectivism from Lyons’s Objections

  • Seungbae ParkEmail author


Lyons (in: Humphreys (ed) The Oxford handbook of philosophy of science, Oxford University Press, New York, pp 564–584, 2016; Synthese 194(9): 3203–3219, 2017; Spontaneous Gener J Hist Philos Sci 9(1): 146–150, 2018) formulates Laudan’s (Philos Sci 48(1): 19–49, 1981) historical objection to scientific realism as a modus tollens. I present a better formulation of Laudan’s objection, and then argue that Lyons’s formulation is supererogatory. Lyons rejects scientific realism (Putnam, Mathematics, matter and method: philosophical papers volume I, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1975) on the grounds that some successful past theories were (completely) false. I reply that scientific realism is not the categorical hypothesis that all successful scientific theories are (approximately) true, but rather the statistical hypothesis that most successful scientific theories are (approximately) true. Lyons rejects selectivism (Kitcher, The advancement of science: science without legend, objectivity without illusion, Oxford University Press, New York, 1993; Psillos, Scientific realism: how science tracks truth, Routledge, New York, 1999) on the grounds that some working assumptions were (completely) false in the history of science. I reply that selectivists would say not that all working assumptions are (approximately) true, but rather that most working assumptions are (approximately) true.


Counterexample formulation Modus tollens formulation No-miracles argument Scientific realism Selectivism 



This work was supported by The Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea (Grant No. NRF-2018S1A5A2A01039606).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ulsan National Institute of Science and TechnologyUlju-gun, UlsanRepublic of Korea

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