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Durham e-Theses
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Which methodologies of science are consistent with scientific realism?

Rowbottom, Darrell Patrick (2002) Which methodologies of science are consistent with scientific realism? Masters thesis, Durham University.



This thesis sets out to examine which methods it would be most consistent for a scientific realist to adopt when practising mature science, given his philosophical predilections. Moreover, it aims to establish the means by which the closely related question, "Is there any support for the philosophical stance known as scientific realism, given the methods that the modern scientist does, in fact, employ?” might be answered. In order to do this, it is first necessary to examine scientific realism in detail, and to compare it with competing philosophical positions on science; this is the role of chapter one. Scientific realism is seen to involve four distinct theses: metaphysical, semantic, epistemic, and teleological. The vital role which induction plays in justifying each of these theses is then illustrated, in part by elucidating the limitations of Popper's anti-inductivism, and of subsequent critical rationalist positions. Second, it is necessary to examine how the methods which one adopts when practising science might be affected by one's philosophical viewpoint. This is the task undertaken in chapter two, where the distinction between normative methods, in which all scientists must take part (in order to practice anything which might be justifiably thought of as a mature science), and auxiliary methods, which are dependent upon the psychological state of the individual practitioner, is established, based on plausible demarcation guidelines between science and pseudo-science. It is clearly shown that different auxiliary methods are adopted by realist and anti-realist scientists: the construction of the quantum formalism in the 1920s, which is mentioned at several points throughout the thesis, is used as the primary example. The final chapter consists of the conclusions, which are as follows: (i) Scientific realists who are also practising scientists should be metaphysical realists of a Lowean variety, and employ metaphysical analysis in order to delimit ontological possibilities, before using experience (e.g. experiment) to choose between those possibilities; (ii) The question of whether there is support for scientific realism from the practice of modern scientists rests on whether there is really any legitimate distinction to be made between belief and acceptance; (iii) The semantic thesis of scientific realism is just as plausible as the metaphysical thesis of scientific realism, given that a practising scientist must behave as if both are true (viz. instrumentalism appears to be a highly dubious position).

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:2002
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:26 Jun 2012 15:22

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