How Not to Be a Realist

  • Ioannis Votsis
Part of the The Western Ontario Series in Philosophy of Science book series (WONS, volume 77)


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.


Ontic Structural Realism Epistemic Access Approximate Truth Impure Version Ramsey Sentence 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I am very grateful to Elaine Landry for inviting me to the Structure, Objects and Causality workshop, which she masterfully organised in Banff, Canada in August 2007 and where this paper was first presented. I am also very grateful to the participants of the workshop as well as to my colleague Ludwig Fahrbach for providing valuable feedback. Finally, I am indebted to the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) for making the writing of this paper possible by funding my research (project B6 of the interdisciplinary research unit FOR 600 ‘Functional Concepts and Frames’).


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophisches Institut, University of DüsseldorfDüsseldorfGermany

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