Hostname: page-component-8448b6f56d-m8qmq Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-04-23T13:26:42.111Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Three Tales of Scientific Success

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022


Success-to-truth inferences have been the realist stronghold for a long time. Scientific success is the parameter by which realists claim to discern approximately true theories from false ones. But scientific success needs to be probed a bit deeper. In this article, I tell three tales of scientific success, by considering in turn success from nowhere, success from here now, and success from within. I argue for a suitable version of success from within that can do justice to the historically situated nature of our scientific knowledge. The outcome is a new way of thinking about success-to-truth inferences along perspectivalist lines.

Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


This article is part of a project that has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (grant agreement European Consolidator Grant H2020-ERC-2014-CoG 647272 “Perspectival Realism: Science, Knowledge, and Truth from a Human Vantage Point”).


Buchwald, J. Z. 1989. The Rise of the Wave Theory of Light. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Chang, H. 2012. Is Water H2O? Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Grattan-Guinness, I. 1990. Convolutions in French Mathematics, 1800–1840. Vol. 2, The Turns. Berlin: Birkhäuser.Google Scholar
Harker, D. 2013. “How to Split a Theory: Defending Selective Realism and Convergence without Proximity.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64:79106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kitcher, P. 2001. “Real Realism: The Galilean Strategy.” Philosophical Review 110:151–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Laudan, L. 1981a. “A Confutation of Convergent Realism.” Philosophy of Science 48:1949.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Laudan, L. 1981b. “The Medium and Its Message.” In Conceptions of Ether, ed. Cantor, G. and Hodge, M. J. S.. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Massimi, M. 2016a. “Bringing Real Realism Back Home: A Perspectival Slant.” In The Philosophy of Philip Kitcher, ed. Couch, M. and Pfeifer, J.. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Pfeifer, J. 2016b. “Four Kinds of Perspectival Truth.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, published online June 10. doi:10.1111/phpr.12300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Psillos, S. 1999. Scientific Realism: How Science Tracks Truth. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
Putnam, H. 1975. “What Is Realism?Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 76:177–94.Google Scholar
Stanford, P. K. 2006. Exceeding Our Grasp. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Worrall, J. 1994. “How to Remain (Reasonably) Optimistic: Scientific Realism and the ‘Luminiferous Ether.’” In PSA 1994: Proceedings of the 1994 Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association, Vol. 1, ed. Jeffrey Barrett, 334–42. East Lansing, MI: Philosophy of Science Association.Google Scholar