Mathematical Structural Realism

  • Christopher Pincock


Unrestricted or global scientific realism is the view that we should take seriously the whole content of empirically successful scientific theories. This attitude requires us to believe that the theoretical claims of the theory are true, or approximately true, and that scientific progress consists in increasing the scope and accuracy of these theories. A series of devastating objections to this position has been developed based on an examination of both the history and practice of science. On the history side, it is arguable that a majority of empirically successful scientific theories are not anywhere near approximately true as we now have evidence that the entities they posited do not exist. The practice of contemporary science raises different and more subtle concerns. Here we find scientists engaging in a wide array of seemingly ad hoc techniques of idealization and approximation. This suggests that we cannot explain the success of our theories by appeal to their truth as the assumptions deployed in the application of these theories have little bearing on the truth of the theoretical claims made by the theory.


Scientific Theory Physical World Structural Realist Semantic Content Limited Realism 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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