Must the Scientific Realist be a Rationalist?
Marc Alspector-Kelly claims that Bas van Fraassen’s primary challenge to the scientific realist is for the realist to find a way to justify the use of some mode of inference that takes him from the world of observables to knowledge of the world of unobservables without thereby abandoning empiricism. It is argued that any effort to justify such an “inferential wand” must appeal either to synthetic a priori or synthetic a posteriori knowledge. This disjunction turns into a dilemma for the empirically-minded realist as either disjunct leads to unwanted consequences. In this paper, I split the horns of this dilemma by arguing that the realist can justify one particular such mode of inference – abduction – without committing himself to rationalism. The realist may justify this mode of inference by appealing to the analytic a priori axioms of the probability calculus. I show that Peter Lipton’s tripartite defense of abduction constitutes such a method of justification.
KeywordsScientific Realist Unify Hypothesis Probability Calculus Theoretical Virtue Unobservable Entity
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