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Realism Despite Cognitive Antireductionism

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Abstract:

Building on previous work, I continue the arguments for scientific realism in the presence of a natural level structure of science. That structure results from a cognitive antireductionism that calls for the retention of mature theories even though they have been "superseded". The level structure is based on "scientific truth" characterized by a theory's validity domain and the confirming empirical data. Reductionism (including fundamentalism) fails cognitively because of qualitative differences in the ontology and semantics of successive theories. This cognitive failure exists in spite of the mathematical success of theory reduction. The claim for scientific realism is strongly based on theory coherence between theories on adjacent levels. Level coherence consists of mathematical relations between levels, as well as of reductive explanations. The latter refers to questions that can be posed (but not answered) on a superseded level, but which can be answered (explained) on the superseding level. In view of the pluralism generated by cognitive antireductionism, theory coherence is claimed to be so compelling that it provides strong epistemic justification for a pluralistic scientific realism.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02698590412331289260

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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