Are There Good Arguments Against Scientific Realism?

  • Paul Hoyningen-Huene
Part of the European Studies in Philosophy of Science book series (ESPS, volume 9)


I will first discuss a peculiarity of the realism-antirealism debate. Some authors defending antirealist positions in a philosophical discussion seem to be inconsistent with what they do when treating scientific subjects. In the latter situation, they behave as realists. This tension can be dissolved by distinguishing different discourses belonging to different levels of philosophical radicality. Depending on the respective level, certain presuppositions are either granted or questioned. I will then turn to a discussion of the miracle argument by discussing a simple example of curve fitting. In the example, multiple use-novel predictions are possible without indicating the truth of the fitting curve. Because this situation has similarities with real scientific cases, it sheds serious doubt upon the miracle argument. Next, I discuss the strategy of selective realism, especially its additional crucial component, the continuity argument. The continuity of some X in a series of theories, with X being responsible for the theories’ use-novel predictions, is taken to be a reliable indicator for the reality of X. However, the continuity of X could as well be due to the similarity of the theories in the series with an empirically very successful theory embodying X, without X being real. Thus, the two main arguments for scientific realism show severe weaknesses.


Miracle argument Use-novel predictions Continuity argument Selective realism Structural realism 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of PhilosophyLeibniz University of HanoverHanoverGermany
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland

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