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Explaining the Success of a Scientific Theory

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022


Scientific realists have claimed that the posit that our theories are (approximately) true provides the best or the only explanation for their success. In response, I revive two nonrealist explanations. I show that realists, in discarding them, have either misconstrued the phenomena to be explained or mischaracterized the relationship between these explanations and their own. I contend nonetheless that these nonrealist competitors, as well as their realist counterparts, should be rejected; for none of them succeed in explaining a significant list of successes. I propose a related nonrealist explanation of success that appears to be the most suitable among those considered.

Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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For discussions on various issues addressed here, I am indebted to Howard Sankey, Neil Thomason, Brian Ellis, Stephen Ames, John Worrall, Peter Lipton, and David Papineau.


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