CSS colloquium: Timothy D. Lyons, Department of Philosophy Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Socratic Scientific Realism: motivations for embracing the quest for truth, while bracketing any claim to possess it

2018.10.16 | Randi Mosegaard

Date Tue 27 Nov
Time 14:15 15:45
Location Aud G2 (1532-122)

I first critique epistemic scientific realism. In basic form, this is the view that we can justifiably believe our successful scientific theories, the justification being “it would be a miracle were our theories successful but not true.” In the course of unfolding contemporary refinements to this position, I identify four non-realist arguments, two that have been misconstrued and two that have suffered from neglect. I emphasize a set of generally overlooked implications, as well as interrelations between the arguments. Given their collective force, I contend that even sophisticated variants of epistemic realism remain threatened and leave realists unable to account for key aspects of science. Motivated by these threats, I endeavor to bracket concern with (semantic) belief and embrace a purely axiological position: Socratic scientific realism. I refine the realist’s axiological postulate that science seeks truth and specify my postulate’s relation to numerous theoretical virtues. Putting this axiological meta-hypothesis up against realist and non-realist competitors, I contend that it provides, not only a better explanation of, but crucially, a stronger justification for, the varied activities of the scientific enterprise. I suggest that, even if a semi-tenable, so depleted, epistemic realism can be developed, my axiological postulate provides a needed supplement.

Lecture / talk