A Non-Explanationist Defence of Scientific Realism
Michel Ghins (Universite catholique de Louvain, Universite catholique de Louvain)

March 15, 2018, 4:15pm - 6:15pm
School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, The University of Melbourne

Jim Potter Room, Old Physics
The University of Melbourne
Melbourne 3010
Australia

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Abstract:

Explanationist strategies for defending epistemological scientific realism (ESR) make heavy use of a particular version of inference to the best explanation known as the no-miracle argument. I consider ESR to be a genuinely philosophical—non-naturalistic—thesis which contends that there are strong arguments to believe in some non-observational claims made by scientific theories that are partially observationally correct. In this paper, I examine the grounds of the strength of these arguments from what I call a contemplative perspective which focuses on the end products, i.e. theories, of the scientific activity as opposed to the pragmatist view which considers science to be primarily an activity. I briefly rehearse the main difficulties of the no-miracle argument and of inference to the best explanation in general. I argue that a convincing defence of ESR should be based on the empirically ascertained reality of causal connections between theoretical entities which possess properties that are in principle observable (OP properties) and the results of measurements or observations. The knowledge of those causal connections may well deliver an—even the best—explanation of the appearances. But belief in the existence of some unobservable entities is mainly justified by their empirically attested causal role, not their possible explanatory function.

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