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Pragmatism and Philosophy of Science: A Critical Survey

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After delineating the distinguishing features of pragmatism, and noting the resources that pragmatists have available to respond effectively as pragmatists to the two major objections to pragmatism, I examine and critically evaluate the various proposals that pragmatists have offered as a solution to the problem of induction, followed by a discussion of the pragmatic positions on the status of theoretical entities. Thereafter I discuss the pragmatic posture toward the nature of explanation in science. I conclude that pragmatism has (a) a generally compelling solution to Hume's problem of induction; (b) no specific position on the status of theoretical entities, although something like the non-realism of the sort developed by van Fraassen seems a defensible candidate for most pragmatists in general, even though there are non-trivial objections to van Fraassen's position; and (c) central to the pragmatic conception of scientific explanation is the abandonment of our common conception of truth as a necessary condition for sentences to provide adequate explanations, and a drift in the direction of a contextualist account of explanation.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2007-07-01

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