Deployment vs. Discriminatory Realism

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Alai, Mario
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conference paper description
The currently most plausible version of scientific realism is probably “deployment” (or “partial”, or “conservative”) realism, based on various contributions in the recent literature, and worked out as a unitary account in Psillos (1999). According to it we can believe in the at least partial truth of theories, because that is the best (or the only non-miraculous) explanation of their predictive success (especially novel predictive success), and discarded theories which had novel predictive success had nonetheless some true parts, those necessary to derive their novel predictions. According to Doppelt (2005, 2007) this account cannot withstand the antirealist objections based on the “pessimistic meta-induction” and Laudan’s historical counterexamples. Moreover it is incomplete, as it purports to explain the predictive success of theories, but overlooks the necessity to explain also their explanatory success. Accordingly, he proposes a new version of realism, presented as the best explanation of both predictive and explanatory success, and committed only to the truth of best current theories, not of the discarded ones. Here I argue that (a) Doppelt has not shown that deployment realism as it stands cannot solve the problems raised by the history of science, (b) explaining explanatory success does not add much to explaining novel predictive success, and (c) a realism confined to current theories is implausible, and actually the easiest prey to the pessimistic meta-induction argument.