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Agnostic empiricism versus scientific realism: belief in truth matters

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Abstract:

This paper aims to defend scientific realism against two versions of agnostic empiricism: a naive agnostic position, which suggests that the only rational option is to remain agnostic as to the truth of theoretical assertions, and van Fraassen's more sophisticated agnostic empiricism - which may be called "Hypercritical Empiricism". It first argues that given semantic realism, naive agnostic empiricism cannot be maintained: there is no relevant epistemic difference between theoretical assertions and observational ones. It then focuses on van Fraassen's more sophisticated alternative to scientific realism and suggests that an attitude towards science which involves less than aiming at theoretical truth and believing in theories would be, in some concrete respect that empiricists should recognize, worse off than the recommended realist attitude. To this end, the paper develops the so-called conjunction argument into a diachronic argument for scientific realism.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/026985900111909

Publication date: 2000-03-01

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