A Pragmatic Case against Pragmatic Scientific Realism
- 109 Downloads
Pragmatic Scientific Realism (PSR) urges us to take up the realist aim or the goal of truth although we have good reason to think that the goal can neither be attained nor approximated. While Newton-Smith thinks that pursuing what we know we cannot achieve is clearly irrational, Rescher disagrees and contends that pursuing an unreachable goal can be rational on pragmatic grounds—if in pursuing the unreachable goal one can get indirect benefits. I have blocked this attempt at providing a pragmatic justification for the realist aim of PSR on precisely the same pragmatic grounds—since there is a competing alternative to PSR, and the alternative can provide whatever indirect benefits PSR can offer while being less risky than it is, prudential reasoning favours the alternative to PSR. This undermines the pragmatic case for the realist aim of science since the instrumentalist alternative does not aim at the truth.
KeywordsPragmatism Scientific realism Constructive empiricism Instrumentalism Nicholas Rescher
I am grateful to Peter Lipton for his insightful comments on an early draft of this article.
- Balashov, Y., & Rosenberg, A. (Eds.) (2002). In P. K. Moser (Ed.), Philosophy of science: Contemporary readings. Routledge contemporary readings in philosophy. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Musgrave, A. (1985). Realism versus constructive empiricism. In P. M. Churchland, C. A. Hooker (Eds.), Images of science: Essays on realism and empiricism, with a reply from Bas C. van Fraassen (pp. 197–221). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Nagel, E. (1961). The structure of science: Problems in the logic of scientific explanation (pp. 106–152) (excerpts). New York and Burlingame: Harcourt, Brace & World. Reprinted in Balashov and Rosenberg (2002, pp. 197–210) (page references are to reprint edition).Google Scholar
- Newton-Smith, W. H. (1981). The rationality of science. London/New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
- Popper, K. R. (1963). Conjectures and refutations: The growth of scientific knowledge. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
- Popper, K. R. (1972). Objective knowledge: An evolutionary approach. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
- Psillos, S. (1999). In W. H. Newton-Smith (Ed.), Scientific realism: How science tracks truth. Philosophical issues in science. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Rescher, N. (1987). In R. E. Butts (Ed.), Scientific realism: A critical reappraisal. The University of Western Ontario series in philosophy of science (Vol. 40). Dordrecht: D. Reidel.Google Scholar
- Rescher, N. (2000). Realistic pragmatism: An introduction to pragmatic philosophy. SUNY series in philosophy. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
- van Fraassen, B. C. (1980). The scientific image. Clarendon library of logic and philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar