AMETAPHYSICS FOR SCIENTIFIC REALISM by ANJAN CHAKRAVARTTY

By ANJAN CHAKRAVARTTY

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When she defines empiricism as a factual doctrine, the empiricist commits the same sin as the metaphysician: she speculates about the world in such a way as to reach beyond the observable. But this is to engage in metaphysics, and that is why van Fraassen’s empiricism cannot be understood as a factual thesis, on pain of defeating itself. One can hardly oppose metaphysics by embracing a metaphysical thesis. The empirical stance, conversely, is not part of the metaphysical stance, and to adopt the empirical stance is not to do metaphysics in disguise.

The remainder of this chapter seeks to expose such refinement in the further evolution of scientific realism. In anticipation, let us gather some morals from the preceding discussion of ER. I have argued that it gives the wrong diagnosis of where the dividing line is between what a realist should and should not believe. I have also suggested that it gives unsatisfactory answers to important historical questions, concerning what realists should believe about entities over time. Despite these (I think) fatal problems, however, I believe there is something important to be learned from ER, and this will turn out to be crucial in coping with worries like PI.

While these topics are central to metaphysics and many realists investigate them, few offer unified accounts in connection with specific proposals for realism. In the absence of such details, the views of realists are sometimes associated by default with the metaphysical speculations of great, systematic philosophers of the past, from ancient and medieval, up to and including early modern times. Unfortunately for the realist, some of these speculations are outmoded today, especially in a modern scientific context.

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