Preservative Realism and Its Discontents: Revisiting Caloric

Publication Year:
Usage 1154
Downloads 1154
Repository URL:
Chang, Hasok
preprint description
Against Laudan`s "pessimistic induction", a popular and plausible response has been what I call "preservative realism", which argues that there have actually been enough elements of scientific knowledge preserved through processes of major theory-changes, and that those elements can be accepted realistically. This paper argues against preservative realism, in particular through a critical review of Psillos`s argument concerning the case of the caloric theory of heat. The historical record of the caloric theory reveals that beliefs about the properties of material caloric were indeed central to the successes of the caloric theory, contrary to Psillos`s argument. Therefore caloric remains a favorable case for Laudan. Further, I argue that even confirmed cases of preservation do not warrant an inference to truth.