Underdetermination as a Path to Structural Realism
We examine the argument for ontic structural realism that begins from an alleged “metaphysical underdetermination” afflicting contemporary fundamental physics. Current discussions have focussed on challenging this underdetermination claim. Our purpose here is to examine what follows even if the premise concerning underdetermination is conceded. We consider the additional premises needed to arrive at an endorsement of ontic structural realism, and show that each can and should be rejected. Moreover, the ontic structural realist program faces an analogous metaphysical underdetermination issue of its own. We conclude that the argument fails, independently of whether the alleged metaphysical underdetermination is conceded.
KeywordsPhysical Object Quantum Particle Spacetime Point Ontic Structural Realism Structural Realism Epistemic Access
This paper was produced as part of a project funded by the NSF (grant number SES-0724383 Brading 201201); we are very grateful for this support. We would like to thank all those present during the “Structuralism in philosophy of science” graduate seminar at Notre Dame, fall semester 2008, and acknowledge the various influences that these seminar discussions had on this paper. We are grateful to Anjan Chakravartty, Scott Hagaman, Stephan Leuenberger, and Juha Saatsi for their detailed comments, and to all those who offered questions, comments, and suggestions when material from this paper was presented at Bristol, Duke, Minneapolis, Oxford, Stanford and Wheaton. Finally, we would like to thank the editors of this volume for organizing the Banff structuralism workshop (2005) and for their efforts in putting this volume together.
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