Cornering the truth: a defense of scientific realism
This is a study of scientific realism, and of the extent to which it is undermined by objections that have been raised by advocates of various forms of antirealism. I seek to develop and present a version of scientific realism that improves on past formulations, and then to show that standard antirealist arguments against it do not succeed. In this paper, I will first present my formulation of scientific realism, which conceives of theories as model-based and as fundamentally non-linguistic. I advocate an epistemic position that accords with indirect realism, and I review and assess the threat posed by theses of underdetermination. Next, I review and discuss three important views: the antirealist constructivist view of Thomas Kuhn, the realist view of Norwood Hanson, and the antirealist constructive empiricist view of Bas van Fraassen. I find merits and flaws in all three views. In the course of those discussions, I develop the theme that antirealists' arguments generally depend on assumptions that are open to question, especially from the perspective of the version of realism I advocate. I further argue that these antirealist views are undermined by their own tacit appeals to realism.