Archive for the ‘Antirealism’ Category


DAY-O-WIPs 4.0

July 14, 2014

“The Nature of Models and Modeling: Two Perspectives” Yoichi Ishida

“The Curious History of the Footless Tortoise” Aaron Novick

Evan Pence


DAY-O-WIPs 3.0

June 16, 2014

“Scales of Motion, Atmospheric Dynamics and Clouds” Marina Baldissera Pacchetti

“William Henry Bragg and the Nature of X-Rays” Haixin Dang


Realism, Instrumentalism, and Uses of Models in Science

January 13, 2014

Yoichi Ishida

Abstract: This paper argues in support of Howard Stein’s idea that in successful scientific research, a scientist uses a model according to the methodological principles of realism and instrumentalism despite the tension that they create among the scientist’s uses of the model over time. After giving precise formulations of the realist and instrumentalist methodological principles, I argue for my thesis through a detailed analysis of successful scientific research done by Seymour Benzer in the 1950s and 60s. I then argue that epistemic realism or epistemic instrumentalism—forms of realism and instrumentalism familiar in the philosophical literature—by itself prohibits a scientist from adopting both the realist and instrumentalist methodological principles. Stein’s conjecture thus poses new challenges to realists and instrumentalists, and I briefly suggest possible avenues of response that realists and instrumentalists may take.

The Structure of the Scientific Realism Debate

October 18, 2013

Aaron Novick

In this paper/talk, I will try to use the structure of inference to the best explanation (IBE, Lipton 2004) to understand the structure of the epistemic scientific realism debate in what I believe is a novel fashion. To say inference to the best explanation is reliable splits into two claims: one about the reliability of the inference form, and one about the non-formal constraints that must be met for an IBE to be successful (i.e. are these constraints met in scientific practice). Anti-realists may be variously understood as attacking one or the other of these claims, and on this basis we can see the realist task as having two parts, corresponding to the defense of each claim. Using this structure, I will explore the prospects for constructing a realist defense of the second claim, with pessimistic results. This motivates an agnosticism about epistemic scientific realism that may better allow us to appreciate the methodological attitudes of working scientists (and others).