Structural Realism

Volume 77 of the series The Western Ontario Series in Philosophy of Science pp 59-76


How Not to Be a Realist

  • Ioannis VotsisAffiliated withPhilosophisches Institut, University of Düsseldorf Email author 

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When it comes to name-calling, structural realists have heard pretty much all of it. Among the many insults, they have been called ‘empiricist anti-realists’ but also ‘traditional scientific realists’. Obviously the collapse accusations that motivate these two insults cannot both be true at the same time. The aim of this paper is to defend the epistemic variety of structural realism against the accusation of collapse to traditional scientific realism. In so doing, I turn the tables on traditional scientific realists by presenting them with a dilemma. They can either opt for a construal of their view that permits epistemic access to non-structural features of unobservables but then face the daunting task of substantiating a claim that up till now has failed to deliver the goods or they can drop the problematic requirement of epistemic access to non-structural features but then face a collapse to epistemic structural realism.