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Chakravartty, Anjan, , . Scientific Ontology: Integrating Naturalized Metaphysics and Voluntarist Epistemology
2017, Oxford University Press
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Matthew Watts

Publisher’s Note: Both science and philosophy are interested in questions of ontology- questions about what exists and what these things are like. Science and philosophy, however, seem like very different ways of investigating the world, so how should one proceed? Some defer to the sciences, conceived as something apart from philosophy, and others to metaphysics, conceived as something apart from science, for certain kinds of answers. This book contends that these sorts of deference are misconceived. A compelling account of ontology must appreciate the ways in which the sciences incorporate metaphysical assumptions and arguments. At the same time, it must pay careful attention to how observation, experience, and the empirical dimensions of science are related to what may be viewed as defensible philosophical theorizing about ontology. The promise of an effectively naturalized metaphysics is to encourage beliefs that are formed in ways that do justice to scientific theorizing, modeling, and experimentation. But even armed with such a view, there is no one, uniquely rational way to draw lines between domains of ontology that are suitable for belief, and ones in which it would be better to suspend belief instead. In crucial respects, ontology is in the eye of the beholder: it is Informed by underlying commitments with implications for the limits of inquiry, which inevitably vary across rational inquirers. As a result, the proper scope of ontology is subject to a striking form of voluntary choice, yielding a new and transformative conception of scientific ontology.

Comment: This is a book that would be useful for teaching advanced courses in the philosophy of science. It requires extensive background knowledge of philosophy of science, scientific epistemology, and naturalized metaphysics.

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Chakravartty, Anjan, , . Scientific Realism
2013, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Matthew Watts

Abstract: Debates about scientific realism are closely connected to almost everything else in the philosophy of science, for they concern the very nature of scientific knowledge. Scientific realism is a positive epistemic attitude toward the content of our best theories and models, recommending belief in both observable and unobservable aspects of the world described by the sciences. This epistemic attitude has important metaphysical and semantic dimensions, and these various commitments are contested by a number of rival epistemologies of science, known collectively as forms of scientific antirealism. This article explains what scientific realism is, outlines its main variants, considers the most common arguments for and against the position, and contrasts it with its most important antirealist counterparts.

Comment: This is a useful encyclopedic entry in courses that are offering introductions to philosophy of science, or more advanced scientific realism.

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Chakravartty, Anjan, , . Six degrees of speculation: metaphysics in empirical contexts
2007, B. Monton (ed.) Images of Empiricism: Essays on Science and Stances, with a Reply From Bas C. Van Fraassen. New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press. pp. 183-208
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Abstract: This chapter argues that the distinction between empiricism and metaphysics is not as clear as van Fraassen would like to believe. Almost all inquiry is metaphysical to a degree, including van Fraassen’s stance empiricism. Van Fraassen does not make a strong case against metaphysics, since the argument against metaphysics has to happen at the level of meta-stances — the level where one decides which stance to endorse. The chapter maintains that utilizing van Fraassen’s own conception of rationality, metaphysicians are rational. Empiricists should not reject all metaphysics, but just the sort of metaphysics which goes well beyond the empirical contexts that most interest them.

Comment: This text is useful discussions pertaining to metaphysics and its useful for empiricists
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Chakravartty, Anjan, , Van Fraassen, Bas C.. What is Scientific Realism?
2018, Spontaneous Generations 9 (1):12-25
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Matthew Watts

Abstract: Decades of debate about scientific realism notwithstanding, we find ourselves bemused by what different philosophers appear to think it is, exactly. Does it require any sort of belief in relation to scientific theories and, if so, what sort? Is it rather typified by a certain understanding of the rationality of such beliefs? In the following dialogue we explore these questions in hopes of clarifying some convictions about what scientific realism is, and what it could or should be. En route, we encounter some profoundly divergent conceptions of the nature of science and of philosophy.

Comment: This paper is useful in courses involving the ontology and structure of scientific realism.
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Chang, Hasok, , . How to Take Realism Beyond Foot-Stamping
2001, Philosophy 76(1): 5-30.
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Abstract: I propose a reformulation of realism, as the pursuit of ontological plausibility in our systems of knowledge. This is dubbed plausibility realism, for convenience of reference. Plausibility realism is non-empiricist, in the sense that it uses ontological plausibility as an independent criterion from empirical adequacy in evaluating systems of knowledge. Ontological plausibility is conceived as a precondition for intelligibility, nor for Truth; therefore, the function of plausibilty realism is to facilitate the kind of understanding that is not reducible to mere description or prediction. Difficulties in making objective judgements of ontological plausibility can be ameliorated if we adhere to the most basic ontological principles. The workings of plausibility realism are illustrated through a detailed discussion of how one ontological principle, which I call the principle of single value, can be employed with great effect. Throughout the paper the discussion draws on concrete examples from the history of science.

Comment: Captures an intuitive appeal of realism, and could be used to illustrate how to avoid implausible philosophical conclusions. Could be used in an introductory metaphysics course.

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Chang, Hasok, , . Inventing Temperature: Measurement and Scientific Progress
2004, Oxford University Press USA.
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Added by: Nick Novelli, Contributed by:

Back Matter: In Inventing Temperature, Chang takes a historical and philosophical approach to examine how scientists were able to use scientific method to test the reliability of thermometers; how they measured temperature beyond the reach of thermometers; and how they came to measure the reliability and accuracy of these instruments without a circular reliance on the instruments themselves. Chang discusses simple epistemic and technical questions about these instruments, which in turn lead to more complex issues about the solutions that were developed.

Comment: A very good practical case study that provides some great insight into a number of philosophocal questions about science. Would make a good inclusion in a history and philosophy of science course.

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Chang, Hasok, , . The Persistence of Epistemic Objects Through Scientific Change
2011, Erkenntnis 75(3): 413-429.
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Abstract: Why do some epistemic objects persist despite undergoing serious changes, while others go extinct in similar situations? Scientists have often been careless in deciding which epistemic objects to retain and which ones to eliminate; historians and philosophers of science have been on the whole much too unreflective in accepting the scientists’ decisions in this regard. Through a re-examination of the history of oxygen and phlogiston, I will illustrate the benefits to be gained from challenging and disturbing the commonly accepted continuities and discontinuities in the lives of epistemic objects. I will also outline two key consequences of such re-thinking. First, a fresh view on the (dis)continuities in key epistemic objects is apt to lead to informative revisions in recognized periods and trends in the history of science. Second, recognizing sources of continuity leads to a sympathetic view on extinct objects, which in turn problematizes the common monistic tendency in science and philosophy; this epistemological reorientation allows room for more pluralism in scientific practice itself.

Comment: An interesting argument about ontology and scientific practice; would be useful in any philosophy of science course that engages with issues in scientific practice.

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Chuang, Liu, , . Models, fiction and fictional models
2014, In Guichun Guo, Chuang Liu (eds.) Scientific Explanation and Methodology in Science, World Scientific Publishing Co.
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Added by: Laura Jimenez, Contributed by:

Summary: The use of models to scientifically represent and study reality is widely recognized with good reasons as indispensable for the practice of science. Because models, unlikely pure verbal representation, are justifiably regarded as vehicles of representation that are not truth-apt, philosophical questions are natural raised concerning the nature of such vehicles and how they represent. A sizeable literature generated in recent years explores the possibility that ”scientific models are works of fiction”. Idealization and other similar strategies are often taken to be the means by which models are made. Arguing against this last claim, the thesis of this article is that most models in science are not fictional. The author argues against the idea that idealization is the means by which models of typically unobservable systems or mechanisms are made.

Comment: Interesting paper about scientific modeling and scientific representation. Useful for undergraduates and postgraduates courses in philosophy of science.

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Collins, Patricia Hill, , . Transforming the inner circle: Dorothy Smith’s challenge to sociological theory
1992, Sociological Theory 10 (1):73-80.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Corbin Covington

Abstract: “Women have been largely excluded from the work of producing the forms of thought and the images and symbols in which thought is expressed and ordered,” suggests sociologist Dorothy E. Smith. “We can imagine women’s exclusion organized by the formation of a circle among men who attend to and treat as significant only what men say.” In this male discourse, “what men were doing was relevant to men, was written by men about men for men . . . this is how a tradition is formed” (Smith 1987, p. 18). Smith’s perspective aptly describes the outer circle that delineates sociology from other equally male-centered disciplines, but it also characterizes the important inner circle of sociological theory lying at the center of the field.

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D. Mitchell, Sandra, , . Unsimple Truths: Science, Complexity and Policy
2009, The University of Chicago Press Chicago and London.
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Added by: Laura Jimenez, Contributed by:

Publisher’s Note: In Unsimple Truths, Sandra Mitchell argues that the long-standing scientific and philosophical deference to reductive explanations founded on simple universal laws, linear causal models, and predict-and-act strategies fails to accommodate the kinds of knowledge that many contemporary sciences are providing about the world. She advocates, instead, for a new understanding that represents the rich, variegated, interdependent fabric of many levels and kinds of explanation that are integrated with one another to ground effective prediction and action. Mitchell draws from diverse fields including psychiatry, social insect biology, and studies of climate change to defend “integrative pluralism” – a theory of scientific practices that makes sense of how many natural and social sciences represent the multi-level, multi-component, dynamic structures they study. She explains how we must, in light of the now-acknowledged complexity and contingency of biological and social systems, revise how we conceptualize the world, how we investigate the world, and how we act in the world.

Comment: The first five chapters, dealing with scientific methodology and epistemology could serve for undergraduate courses in general philosophy of science. The last chapter dedicated to integrative pluralism, is more specialized and thus more suitable for postgraduate courses.

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Dang, Haixin, , . Do Collaborators in Science Need to Agree?
2019, Philosophy of Science 86, 1029-1040
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Abstract: I argue that collaborators do not need to reach broad agreement over the justification of a consensus claim. This is because maintaining a diversity of justifiers within a scientific collaboration has important epistemic value. I develop a view of collective justification that depends on the diversity of epistemic perspectives present in a group. I argue that a group can be collectively justified in asserting that P as long as the disagreement among collaborators over the reasons for P is itself justified. In conclusion, I make a case for multimethod collaborative research and work through an example in the social sciences.

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Demarest, Heather, , . Fundamental Properties and the Laws of Nature
2015, Philosophy Compass 10(5) 224-344.
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Added by: Laura Jimenez, Contributed by:

Abstract: Fundamental properties and the laws of nature go hand in hand: mass and gravitation, charge and electromagnetism, spin and quantum mechanics. So, it is unsurprising that one’s account of fundamental properties affects one’s view of the laws of nature and vice versa. In this essay,the author surveys a variety of recent attempts to provide a joint account of the fundamental properties and the laws of nature. Many of these accounts are new and unexplored. Some of them posit surprising entities, such as counterfacts. Other accounts posit surprising laws of nature, such as instantaneous laws that constrain the initial configuration of particles. These exciting developments challenge our assumptions about our basic ontology and provide fertile ground for further exploration.

Comment: The article introduces in a simple way some fundamental concepts such as ‘law of nature’, ‘properties’, the notion of ‘categorical’ and ‘dispositional’ or the distinction between the governing and the systems approaches. It could serve as an introduction for those undergraduates that have never heard of these concepts before, or as a further reading for those in need of clarification. Some examples of modern fundamental physics are used as examples.

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Douglas, Heather, , . Inductive Risk and Values in Science
2000, Philosophy of Science 67(4): 559-579.
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Added by: Nick Novelli, Contributed by:

Abstract: Although epistemic values have become widely accepted as part of scientific reasoning, non-epistemic values have been largely relegated to the “external” parts of science (the selection of hypotheses, restrictions on methodologies, and the use of scientific technologies). I argue that because of inductive risk, or the risk of error, non-epistemic values are required in science wherever non-epistemic consequences of error should be considered. I use examples from dioxin studies to illustrate how non-epistemic consequences of error can and should be considered in the internal stages of science: choice of methodology, characterization of data, and interpretation of results.

Comment: A good challenge to the "value-free" status of science, interrogating some of the assumptions about scientific methodology. Uses real-world examples effectively. Suitable for undergraduate teaching.

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Douglas, Heather, , . Science, Policy, and the Value-Free Ideal
2009, University of Pittsburgh Press.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Patricia Rich

Publisher’s Note: The role of science in policymaking has gained unprecedented stature in the United States, raising questions about the place of science and scientific expertise in the democratic process. Some scientists have been given considerable epistemic authority in shaping policy on issues of great moral and cultural significance, and the politicizing of these issues has become highly contentious.

Since World War II, most philosophers of science have purported the concept that science should be “value-free.” In Science, Policy and the Value-Free Ideal, Heather E. Douglas argues that such an ideal is neither adequate nor desirable for science. She contends that the moral responsibilities of scientists require the consideration of values even at the heart of science. She lobbies for a new ideal in which values serve an essential function throughout scientific inquiry, but where the role values play is constrained at key points, thus protecting the integrity and objectivity of science. In this vein, Douglas outlines a system for the application of values to guide scientists through points of uncertainty fraught with moral valence.

Following a philosophical analysis of the historical background of science advising and the value-free ideal, Douglas defines how values should-and should not-function in science. She discusses the distinctive direct and indirect roles for values in reasoning, and outlines seven senses of objectivity, showing how each can be employed to determine the reliability of scientific claims. Douglas then uses these philosophical insights to clarify the distinction between junk science and sound science to be used in policymaking. In conclusion, she calls for greater openness on the values utilized in policymaking, and more public participation in the policymaking process, by suggesting various models for effective use of both the public and experts in key risk assessments.

Comment: Chapter 5, 'The structure of values in science', is a good introduction to the topic of the role of values in science, while defending a particular perspective. Basic familiarity with philosophy of science or science itself should be enough to understand and engage with it.

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Drewery, Alice, , . Essentialism and the Necessity of the Laws of Nature
2005, Synthese 144(3): 381-396.
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Abstract: In this paper the author discusses and evaluates different arguments for the view that the laws of nature are metaphysically necessary. She conclude that essentialist arguments from the nature of natural kinds fail to establish that essences are ontologically more basic than laws, and fail to offer an a priori argument for the necessity of all causal laws. Similar considerations carry across to the argument from the dispositionalist view of properties, which may end up placing unreasonable constraints on property identity across possible worlds. None of her arguments preclude the possibility that the laws may turn out to be metaphysically necessary after all, but she argues that this can only be established by a posteriori scientific investigation. She argues for what may seem to be a surprising conclusion: that a fundamental metaphysical question – the modal status of laws of nature – depends on empirical facts rather than purely on a priori reasoning.

Comment: An excellent paper that could serve as further or specialized reading for postgraduate courses in philosophy of science, in particular, for modules related to the study of the laws of nature. The paper offers an in-depth discussion of essentialist arguments, but also touches upon many other fundamental concepts such as grounding, natural kinds, dispositions and necessity.

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