Elsamahi, Mohamed, and . A ctitique of localized realism

2005, Philosophy of Science 72(5): 1350-1360.

Abstract: In an attempt to avert Laudan’s pessimistic induction, Worrall and Psillos introduce a narrower version of scientific realism. According to this version, which can be referred to as “localized realism”, realists need not accept every component in a successful theory. They are supposed only to accept those components that led to the theory’s empirical success. Consequently, realists can avoid believing in dubious entities like the caloric and ether. This paper examines and critiques localized realism. It also scrutinizes Psillos’s historical study of the caloric theory of heat, which is intended to support localized realism.

Comment: Recommended as further reading for studying scientific realism and anti-realism. Preferable for postgraduate students since previous knowledge of theories in science helps to a better understanding of this article.

Massimi, Michela, and . Structural Realism: A Neo-Kantian Perspective

2010, In Alisa Bokulich & Peter Bokulich (eds.), Scientific Structuralism. Springer Science+Business Media. pp. 1-23.

Introduction: Structural realism was born in the attempt to reach a compromise between a realist argument and an antirealist one, namely the ‘no miracle’ argument and the ‘pessimistic meta-induction’, respectively. In recent years, John Worrall has drawn attention to an epistemological version of structural realism, which he traces back to Henri Poincaré. French and Ladyman, on the other hand, have urged a metaphysical or ontic structural realism, which offers a ‘reconceptualisation of ontology, at the most basic metaphysical level, which effects a shift from objects to structures.’ French and Ladyman want to maintain the distance from neo-Kantianism and detach metaphysical structural realism from neo-Kantian epistemology so as to do justice to the realist’s demand for mind-independence. This manoeuvre raises, however, some difficulties that have been at the centre of a recent ongoing debate: can we really ‘dissolve’ entities into mathematical structures? How can we even conceive of structural relations without relata? In this paper the author offers a diagnosis of the current standoff within structural realism between the epistemological and the metaphysical variant, by drawing attention to some important assumptions underlying the structural realist programme, and to their philosophical sources. It is the heterogeneity of these sources – she suggests – that is mainly responsible for the current stand-off within structural realism.

Comment: In this paper the author gives an excellent overview of the philosophical sources of structural realism: Poincaré, Cassier and Russell. The paper also explains with clarity the Newman problem and reviews the Fresnel-Maxwell case. The chapter serves as a good introduction to the topic of Structural Realism. It serves as well as a good introduction to the rest of the chapters present in the same book. This reading is best suited for courses in philosophy of science.

McGowan, M.K, and . The Metaphysics of Squaring Scientific Realism with Referential Indeterminacy

1999, Erkenntnis 50(1): 87-94.

Introduction: Scientific realism and the claim that there is radical referential indeterminacy are important and compelling philosophical theses. Each thesis has advocates and for good reason. On cursory examination, however, it seems that these theses are at odds with one another. It seems that one cannot both claim that science seeks to describe an objective reality and yet deny that reality is objectively structured in such a way as to determine the referents of our terms. Since there are compelling reasons in favour of each thesis and since it appears that some philosophers actually advocate both theses (Quine himself may be one such example), finding a way to square the theses would be multiply advantageous. On this paper, the author argues that despite the prima facie tension between them, these theses are indeed cotenable.

Comment: Interesting paper that lies on the intersection between philosophy of science and philosophy of language. It could be used as a secondary reading for postgraduate courses in philosophy of science, in particular for lectures on the topic of scientific realism. The level of difficulty is not high, but it is more recommendable for students who have been introduced before to concepts such as realism, subjective supervientism and referential indeterminacy.

Ruetsche,Laura, and . Interpreting Quantum Theories: The art of the possible

2011, Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Note: Traditionally, philosophers of quantum mechanics have addressed exceedingly simple systems: a pair of electrons in an entangled state, or an atom and a cat in Dr. Schrodinger’s diabolical device. But recently, much more complicated systems, such as quantum fields and the infinite systems at the thermodynamic limit of quantum statistical mechanics, have attracted, and repaid, philosophical attention. Interpreting Quantum Theories has three entangled aims. The first is to guide those familiar with the philosophy of ordinary QM into the philosophy of ‘QM infinity’, by presenting accessible introductions to relevant technical notions and the foundational questions they frame. The second aim is to develop and defend answers to some of those questions. Does quantum field theory demand or deserve a particle ontology? How (if at all) are different states of broken symmetry different? And what is the proper role of idealizations in working physics? The third aim is to highlight ties between the foundational investigation of QM infinity and philosophy more broadly construed, in particular by using the interpretive problems discussed to motivate new ways to think about the nature of physical possibility and the problem of scientific realism.

Comment: Really interesting book for postgraduate courses involving the study of interpretative theories of Quantum Mechanics. The argument is focused on the quantum theory of systems with infinitely many degrees of freedom. The philosophical approach is defended through careful attention to scientific details.