From Zymes to Germs: Discarding the Realist/Anti-Realist Framework

  • Dana TulodzieckiEmail author
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science book series (BSPS, volume 319)


I argue that neither realist nor anti-realist accounts of theory-change can account for the transition from zymotic views of disease to germ views. The trouble with realism is its focus on stable and continuous elements that get retained in the transition from one theory to the next; the trouble with anti-realism is its focus on the radical discontinuity between theories and their successors. I show that neither of these approaches works for the transition from zymes to germs: there is neither continuity nor discontinuity, but, instead, a gradual evolution from zyme to germ views, during which germ elements are slowly incorporated into zymotic views until, eventually, none of the original zymotic constituents are left. I argue that the problem with both realism and anti-realism is that they rest on the unwarranted assumption that there are clearly delineated zymotic and germ theories as well as arguments for and against these theories, an assumption that does not hold.


Scarlet Fever Spontaneous Generation Puerperal Fever Disease Causation Radical Discontinuity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Many thanks to Mike Jacovides for a number of helpful conversations and remarks, and, especially, to David McCarty for his careful comments on a previous draft. For helpful discussions, I thank Hildegard Tulodziecki.


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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