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A Confrontation of Convergent Realism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022

Abstract

For many years—and with some energy since Laudan’s “Confutation of Convergent Realism” (1981)—the scientific realist has sought to accommodate examples of false-yet-successful theories in the history of science. One of the most prominent strategies is to identify ‘success fueling’ components of false theories that themselves are at least approximately true (judging by our current understanding). In this article I develop both sides of the debate, introducing new challenges from the history of science as well as suggesting adjustments to the divide et impera realist strategy. A new ‘recipe’ for the prospective identification of (at least some) working/idle posits is considered.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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Footnotes

This article was written as part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council–funded project Evaluating Scientific Realism: A New Generation of Historical Case Studies conducted at Durham University, February to September 2012. I am most grateful to the council and to everybody involved in the project. In particular, very special thanks to Juha Saatsi and Dean Peters whose insights were absolutely invaluable. Thanks also to the Centre for Science Studies at Aarhus University (and especially Sam Schindler and Helge Kragh), where an early version of this article was presented. Finally, I am indebted to Greg Frost-Arnold and two anonymous referees for penetrating criticisms of the final drafts of the article.

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