Archive for the ‘Realism’ Category

h1

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.
h1

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).

h1

Realism, Instrumentalism, and Best Scientific Practice

April 12, 2013

Yoichi Ishida

I want to flesh out and explore Howard Stein’s ideas that there are methodological forms of realism and instrumentalism, which are distinct from standard forms of these positions, and that in the practice of science suitably sophisticated realism and instrumentalism should coexist or stand in “a dialectical tension,” as Stein says.

h1

Scientific Realism

March 1, 2013

Aaron Novick

My general aim is to refocus the scientific realism debate by suggesting that one major strand—that which negotiates between the pessimistic meta-induction and the no miracles argument—is premised on faulty assumptions. Taking a lesson from Norton’s material theory of induction, I suggest that the warrant for theory choice comes locally and ‘from the ground up’. Consideration of this point undermines assumptions crucial to both realist and anti-realist arguments. Both sides of the negotiation are bluffing; neither has any legitimate claim on our reason.

h1

Cartographers, Cardboard, and Wellington Boots

October 12, 2012
Yoichi Ishida

I’m going to give a true work-in-progress talk: I will briefly describe my dissertation project and then present some of my ideas from the first two chapters. I plan to discuss what sort of objects we should think models are and what it is to study their uses in everyday scientific research. I also present my tentative formulation of the distinction between representational and non-representational uses of models. Representational uses include those uses that philosophers commonly recognize as uses of models in science, such as descriptive or explanatory uses. But non-representational uses tend to be neglected or characterized (mistakenly, in my view) as representational uses, because we lack appropriate conceptual resources. So I will develop the necessary conceptual resources to recognize non-representational uses and illustrate them with a variety of examples, including some drawn from the research I did at the Caltech Archives. If time remains in the discussion period, we can explore some of the implications of these ideas for other philosophical topics—e.g., our understanding of realism and instrumentalism, the idea of a good model, as well as approaches to the evaluation of models—which I plan to discuss in the second half of my dissertation.