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In Defense of Realism and Selectivism from Lyons’s Objections

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. It can be found elsewhere, where Laudan says, “Most of the past theories of science are already suspected of being false; there is presumably every reason to anticipate that current theories of science will suffer a similar fate” (1977: 126).

  2. Since Laudan’s objection can be formulated as a modus tollens, it is inadequate to call it the pessimistic meta-induction (Park 2019a: Subsection 4.3).

  3. See Park (2018b: 15) for a summary of all those criticisms.

  4. I thank a reviewer for this objection.

  5. I thank a reviewer for this request.

  6. I thank two reviewers for this objection.

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Acknowledgements

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).

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Correspondence to Seungbae Park.

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Park, S. In Defense of Realism and Selectivism from Lyons’s Objections. Found Sci 24, 605–615 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10699-019-09614-7

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Keywords

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