JOHN WORRALL case of realism’s ‘explanation’ of the success of our current theories there can of course be no question of any independent tests. Scientific. Structural realism was introduced into contemporary philosophy of science by John Worrall in as a way to break the impasse that results. (1) Epistemic Structural Realism, or ESR for short, holds that our epistemic by the publication of John Worrall’s ‘Structural Realism: The Best of Both Worlds?.

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However, he also followed the downward path to structural realism arguing that the history of science can be seen as cumulative at the level of relations rather than objects. Thus Maxwell and Russell claimed that knowledge of the unobservable realm is limited to knowledge of its structural rather than intrinsic properties, or, as is sometimes said, limited to knowledge of its higher-order properties.

Suppose that the world consists of a set of objects whose structurwl is W with respect to some relation Rabout which nothing else is known. wortall

The metaphysical import of successful scientific theories consists in their giving correct descriptions of the structure of the world. These objections go back to Russell: Srtuctural Ladyman and Ross argue for a kind of verificationism in metaphysics. The latter’s structuralist inclinations can be seen as early as The Problems of Philosophy Informational structural realism in the context of the foundations of computer science is defended by Floridi Saunders and David Wallace have deployed structuralism to solve the problem of how macroscopic objects with more or less determinate properties can be recovered from the Everett interpretation of quantum states the so-called preferred structurao problem Saunders b,and Wallace Worrall offers ESR as a weaker in terms of epistemic commitments but more justifiable realist position that underwrites both of these arguments, and situates itself midway between constructive empiricism and traditional scientific realism.

Other Structuralisms Informational structural realism in the context of the foundations of computer science is defended by Floridi The most well known advocates of realist structuralism in the philosophy of mathematics are ParsonsResnik and Woreall Though I kept the name, the principle goes at realisk as far back as Descartes.

Mathematical objects can be characterised in terms of which symmetry transformations leave them unchanged or invariant. Theories can be very different and yet sturctural all kinds of structure. This is natural since, while Worrall’s motivation for introducing structural realism was solely the need for a realist response to the pessimistic meta-induction, French and Ladyman introduced OSR to describe a form of structural realism hohn by two further problems:.


Hence, Ladyman raised the question as to whether Worrall’s structural realism is intended as a metaphysical or epistemological modification of standard scientific realism. Worrall and Zahar argue that the cognitive content of a theory is reapism by its Ramsey sentences but that, while the Ramsey sentence only expresses the empirical content of the theory, the worralp of empirical content in play here is sufficient for a form of realism.

The Best of Both Worlds? In any case, eliminativism does not require that there be relations without relata, just that the relata not be individuals. There are two common not necessarily exclusive responses to this: Gower argues that structural rrealism seems less natural a position when applied to theories from outside of physics. How Science Tracks TruthLondon: When the target of explanation becomes science itself and its history of empirical success as a whole, we arrive at the no-miracles argument famously presented by Hilary Putnam as follows: Sign in Create an account.

Structural Realism

On the other stfuctural, Roberts criticizes the idea that structure can be understood as group structure in the context of quantum physics. Gordon Solomon defends Richard Braithwaite’s claim that Eddington’s structuralism see 4.

The answer that he gave, following Russell, was that we can know about them by description, that is we can know them via their structural properties. French considers the implications of ontic structural realism for the ontology of biology. The motivation for OSR draws on underdetermination in modern, and particularly in quantum, physics. Versions of ESR that employ the Ramsey sentence of a theory and the distinction between observational and theoretical terms are embedded in the so-called syntactic view of theories that adopts first-order quantificational logic as the realiem form for the representation of physical theories.

A similar complaint is made by Cao a and b. strutcural

Michael Esfeld rejects 1 and worra,l that: Critics of OSR may argue that the claim of metaphysical reailsm in the case of non-relativistic many particle quantum mechanics is resolved by the shift to quantum field theory. Leitgeb and Ladyman note that in the case of mathematical structures there is nothing to rule out the possibility that the identity and diversity of objects in a structure is a primitive feature of the structure as a whole that is not accounted for by any other facts about it.


Rather, we should adopt structural realism and epistemically commit ourselves only to the mathematical or structural content of our theories. The relationship between ontic structural realism and ante rem structuralism has been explored by Psillos aBuschFrenchPooley aLeitgeb and LadymanJhon 6.

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For example, Aristotle or Newton could be said to be referring to geodesic motion in a curved spacetime when, respectively, they talked about the natural motion of material objects, and the fall of a body under the effect of the gravitational force.

However, there are arguments from theory change that are not probabilistic. The standard conception of structure is either set theoretic or logical.

Worrall’s position in his paper is not explicitly an epistemic one, and other comments suggest a different view: See Esfeld and Lam He goes on to note that his favoured interpretation of gauge theories in terms of non-separable holonomies is one according to which the fundamental objects are ontologically secondary to structure because the objects of a theory are members of equivalence classes under symmetry transformations and no further individuation of objects is possible.

Many people’s first response to structural realism is to point realis, that mathematical structure is often lost in theory change too see, for example, Chakravartty, Stanford— In fact, it seems even worse if contextualism about the meaning of theoretical terms is adopted.

I Develop an account of reference according to which the abandoned theoretical terms are regarded as successfully referring after all. So there are examples of theories that were mature and had novel predictive success but which are not approximately true.

John Worrall, Structural realism: The best of both worlds? – PhilPapers

It avoids the problems with 1 above, and rfalism 2 and 3. Other responses include Kitcher’s model of reference according to which some tokens of theoretical terms refer and others do not. The most minimal form of structuralism focuses on empirical structure, and as such is best thought of as a defence of the cumulative nature of science in the face of Kuhnian worries about revolutions following Post