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Chakravartty, Anjan, , . Introduction: Ancient Skepticism, Voluntarism, and Science
2015, International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 5 (2):73-79
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Abstract: In this introduction, I motivate the project of examining certain resonances between ancient skeptical positions, especially Pyrrhonism, and positions in contemporary epistemology, with special attention to recent work in the epistemology of science. One such resonance concerns the idea of suspension of judgment or belief in certain contexts or domains of inquiry, and the reasons for (or processes eventuating in) suspension. Another concerns the question of whether suspension of belief in such circumstances is voluntary, in any of the senses discussed in current work on voluntarism in epistemology, which informs recent discussions of how voluntarism regarding epistemic stances may shed light on positions like scientific realism and antirealism. The aim of this special issue is thus to explore certain analogies and disanalogies between ancient and contemporary debates about skepticism, and to consider whether and to what extent the former can provide insight into the latter.

Comment: This text offers motivation for examining ancient skeptical positions in relation to contemporary epistemology, especially epistemology of science.

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Chakravartty, Anjan, , . Realist Representations of Particles: The Standard Model, Top-Down and Bottom-Up
2019, In Contemporary Scientific Realism and the Challenge from the History of Science
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Introduction: Much debate about scientific realism concerns the issue of whether it is compatible with theory change over time. Certain forms of ‘selective realism’ have been suggested with this in mind. Here I consider a closely related challenge for realism: that of articulating how a theory should be interpreted at any given time. In a crucial respect the challenges posed by diachronic and synchronic interpretation are the same; in both cases, realists face an apparent dilemma. The thinner their interpretations, the easier realism is to defend, but at the cost of more substantial commitment. The more substantial their interpretations, the more difficult they are to defend. I consider this worry in the context of the Standard Model of particle physics.

Comment: This text presents challenges to scientific realism, and shows how these challenges can be mitigated.

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Chakravartty, Anjan, , . Scientific Realism
2013, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
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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, , 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.
[This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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Elsamahi, Mohamed, , . A ctitique of localized realism
2005, Philosophy of Science 72(5): 1350-1360.
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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.

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Ivanova, Milena, , . Conventionalism, structuralism and neo-Kantianism in Poincare’s philosophy of science
2015, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 52 (Part B):114-122.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Milena Ivanova

Abstract: Poincare is well known for his conventionalism and structuralism. However, the relationship between these two theses and their place in Poincare’s epistemology of science remain puzzling. In this paper I show the scope of Poincare’s conventionalism and its position in Poincare’s hierarchical approach to scientific theories. I argue that for Poincare scientific knowledge is relational and made possible by synthetic a priori, empirical and conventional elements, which, however, are not chosen arbitrarily. By examining his geometric conventionalism, his hierarchical account of science and defence of continuity in theory change, I argue that Poincare defends a complex structuralist position based on synthetic a priori and conventional elements, the mind-dependence of which precludes epistemic access to mind-independent structures.

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Ivanova, Milena, , . Did Perrin’s Experiments Convert Poincare to Scientific Realism?
2013, Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 3 (1):1-19.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Milena Ivanova

Abstract: In this paper I argue that Poincare’s acceptance of the atom does not indicate a shift from instrumentalism to scientific realism. I examine the implications of Poincare’s acceptance of the existence of the atom for our current understanding of his philosophy of science. Specifically, how can we understand Poincare’s acceptance of the atom in structural realist terms? I examine his 1912 paper carefully and suggest that it does not entail scientific realism in the sense of acceptance of the fundamental existence of atoms but rather, argues against fundamental entities. I argue that Poincare’s paper motivates a non-fundamentalist view about the world, and that this is compatible with his structuralism.

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Ivanova, Milena, , . Friedman’s Relativised A Priori and Structural Realism: In Search of Compatibility
2011, International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 25 (1):23 – 37.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Milena Ivanova

Abstract: In this article I discuss a recent argument due to Dan McArthur, who suggests that the charge that Michael Friedman’s relativised a priori leads to irrationality in theory change can be avoided by adopting structural realism. I provide several arguments to show that the conjunction of Friedman?s relativised a priori with structural realism cannot make the former avoid the charge of irrationality. I also explore the extent to which Friedman’s view and structural realism are compatible, a presupposition of McArthur’s argument. This compatibility is usually questioned, due to the Kantian aspect of Friedman’s view, which clashes with the metaphysical premise of scientific realism. I argue that structural realism does not necessarily depend on this premise and as a consequence can be compatible with Friedman’s view, but more importantly I question whether Friedman’s view really implies mind dependence

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Leng, Mary, , . Platonism and Anti-Platonism: Why Worry?
2005, International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 19(1):65-84
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Abstract: This paper argues that it is scientific realists who should be most concerned about the issue of Platonism and anti-Platonism in mathematics. If one is merely interested in accounting for the practice of pure mathematics, it is unlikely that a story about the ontology of mathematical theories will be essential to such an account. The question of mathematical ontology comes to the fore, however, once one considers our scientific theories. Given that those theories include amongst their laws assertions that imply the existence of mathematical objects, scientific realism, when construed as a claim about the truth or approximate truth of our scientific theories, implies mathematical Platonism. However, a standard argument for scientific realism, the ‘no miracles’ argument, falls short of establishing mathematical Platonism. As a result, this argument cannot establish scientific realism as it is usually defined, but only some weaker position. Scientific ‘realists’ should therefore either redefine their position as a claim about the existence of unobservable physical objects, or alternatively look for an argument for their position that does establish mathematical Platonism.

Comment: Previous knowledge both on Platonism in philosophy of mathematics and scientific realism is needed. Essential paper for advanced courses of philosophy of science.

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Massimi, Michaela, , . Why There are No Ready-Made Phenomena: What Philosophers of Science Should Learn From Kant
2008, Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 63:1-35.
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Abstract: The debate on scientific realism has raged among philosophers of science for decades. The scientific realist’s claim that science aims to give us a literally true description of the way things are, has come under severe scrutiny and attack by Bas van Fraassen’s constructive empiricism. All science aims at is to save the observable phenomena, according to van Fraassen. Scientific realists have faced since a main sceptical challenge: the burden is on them to prove that the entities postulated by our scientific theories are real and that science is still in the ‘truth’ business.

Comment: This article provides a very clear explanation of the scientific realism/Van Fraassen’s constructive empiricism debate highlighting scientific realists’ main difficulty, i.e find a proof that entities posited by science are real. Presupposes some background on the above mentioned themes.

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Massimi, Michela, , . Structural Realism: A Neo-Kantian Perspective
2010, In Alisa Bokulich & Peter Bokulich (eds.), Scientific Structuralism. Springer Science+Business Media. pp. 1-23.
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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.

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McGowan, M.K, , . The Metaphysics of Squaring Scientific Realism with Referential Indeterminacy
1999, Erkenntnis 50(1): 87-94.
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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.

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Ruetsche,Laura, , . Interpreting Quantum Theories: The art of the possible
2011, Oxford University Press.
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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.

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Tulodziecki, Dana, , . Underdetermination, methodological practices, and realism
2013, Synthese 190(17): 3731-3750.
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Abstract: In this paper, the author argues (i) that there are certain methodological practices that are epistemically significant, and (ii) that we can test for the success of these practices empirically by examining case-studies in the history of science. Analysing a particular episode from the history of medicine, she explains how this can help us resolve specific cases of underdetermination. She concludes that, while the anti-realist is (more or less legitimately) able to construct underdetermination scenarios on a case-by-case basis, he will have to abandon the strategy of using algorithms to do so, thus losing the much needed guarantee that there will always be rival cases of the required kind.

Comment: Using the case study of the origin and pathology of cholera, this article argues for an expanded conception of epistemic criteria besides the empirical evidence. A really useful reading for studying realism and under-determination. It is suitable for both postgraduate and undergraduate courses in philosophy of science.

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