Contemporary Scientific Realism: The Challenge from the History of Science

ISBN : 9780190946814

Timothy D. Lyons; Peter Vickers
392 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Jun 2021
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Scientific realists claim we can justifiably believe that science is getting at the truth. But they have long faced historical challenges: various episodes across history appear to demonstrate that even strongly supported scientific theories can be overturned and left behind. In response, realists have developed new positions and arguments. As a result of specific challenges from the history of science, and realist responses, we find ourselves with an ever-increasing dataset bearing on the (possible) relationship between science and truth. The present volume introduces new historical cases impacting the debate and advances the discussion of cases that have only very recently been introduced. At the same time, shifts in philosophical positions affect the very kind of case study that is relevant. Thus, the historical work must proceed hand in hand with philosophical analysis of the different positions and arguments in play. It is with this in mind that the volume is divided into two sections, entitled "Historical Cases for the Debate" and "Contemporary Scientific Realism." All sides agree that historical cases are informative with regard to how, or whether, science connects with truth. Defying proclamations as early as the 1980s announcing the death knell of the scientific realism debate, here is that rare thing: a philosophical debate making steady and definite progress. Moreover, the progress it is making concerns one of humanity's most profound and important questions: the relationship between science and truth, or, put more boldly, the epistemic relation between humankind and the reality in which we find ourselves.


Chapter 1. Introduction, Timothy D. Lyons and Peter Vickers
Part I: Historical Cases for the Debate
Chapter 2. Continuity, Truth, and Pessimism: Revisiting the Miasma Theory, Dana Tulodziecki
Chapter 3. What Can the Discovery of Boron Tell Us About the Scientific Realism Debate?, Jonathon Hricko
Chapter 4. No Miracle After All: The Thomson Brothers' Novel Prediction that Pressure Lowers the Freezing Point of Water, Keith Hutchison
Chapter 5. From the Evidence of History to the History of Evidence: Descartes, Newton, and Beyond, Stathis Psillos
Chapter 6. How Was Nicholson's Proto-Element Theory Able to Yield Explanatory as well as Predictive Success?, Eric Scerri
Chapter 7. Selective Scientific Realism and Truth-Transfer in Theories of Molecular Structure, Amanda Nichols and Myron Penner
Chapter 8. Realism, Physical Meaningfulness, and Molecular Spectroscopy, Teru Miyake and George E. Smith
Part II: Contemporary Scientific Realism
Chapter 9. The Historical Challenge to Realism and Essential Deployment, Mario Alai
Chapter 10. Realism, Instrumentalism, Particularism: A Middle Path Forward in the Scientific Realism Debate, Kyle Stanford
Chapter 11. Structure not Selection, James Ladyman
Chapter 12. The Case of the Consumption Function: Structural Realism in Macroeconomics, Jennifer Jhun
Chapter 13. We Think, They Thought: A Critique of the Pessimistic Meta-Meta Induction, Ludwig Fahrbach
Chapter 14. The Paradox of Infinite Limits: A Realist Response, Patricia Palacios and Giovanni Valente
Chapter 15. Realist Representations of Particles: The Standard Model, Top Down and Bottom Up, Anjan Chakravartty

About the author: 

Timothy D. Lyons is Chair of Philosophy and Professor of Philosophy of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. He has numerous publications on the scientific realism debate in, for instance: The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Science, Synthese, and The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Science. He is the author of Scientific Realism, Elements in Philosophy of Science (Cambridge University Press, 2021).; Peter Vickers is Associate Professor and Reader in the Department of Philosophy at University of Durham in the United Kingdom. He is the author of Understanding Inconsistent Science (Oxford University Press, 2013) and the Associate Editor of the journal Studies in History and Philosophy of Science. He has several publications on the scientific realism debate in, for instance: The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Science, Synthese, and The European Journal for Philosophy of Science.

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