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Van Fraassen's Unappreciated Realism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022

Abstract

What is not often noted about Bas van Fraassen's distinctive approach to the scientific realism issue is that constructive empiricism, as he defines it, seems to involve a distinctively realist stance in regard to large parts of natural science. This apparent defection from the ranks of his more uncompromisingly anti-realist colleagues raises many questions. Is he really leaning to realism here? If he is, why is this not more widely noted? And, more important, if he is, is he entitled to this shyly realist concession? Does his many-pronged attack on what he sees as the main arguments in support of realism leave him with the wherewithal?

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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Footnotes

This paper recalls one of the issues debated between Ernan McMullin and Bas van Fraassen on two earlier occasions: first, during the course of the annual Cardinal Mercier Lectures at the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium) given by Ernan McMullin, and then during the annual Cuming Lectures at University College Dublin which took the form of an extended discussion between McMullin and van Fraassen on the more general theme: “Realism and anti-realism in the philosophy of science.” The author wishes to express his gratitude to his hosts on both those occasions: Professor Carlos Steel (Higher Institute of Philosophy, Leuven), and Professor Dermot Moran (Dublin).

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