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::: center home >> events >> lunchtime >> 2005-06 >> abstracts

Tuesday, 25 October 2005
No-Miracles, Pessimistic Inductions, and Structural Realism
John Worrall, London School of Economics
12:05 pm, 817R Cathedral of Learning

Abstract: I earlier (1989) presented Structural Realism as a position that reconciles the two seemingly most powerful, but oppositely directed, considerations relevant to the issue of scientific realism – basically the astounding success of (some) scientific theories, on the one hand, and the existence of (apparently radical) theory-change in science, on the other. These considerations are often dressed up as the ‘No Miracles Argument’ (NMA) and the ‘Pessimistic Induction” (PI), respectively. However, it has recently been argued (Howson 2000) that the NMA is nothing more than an elementary probabilistic fallacy. While, ironically enough, Lewis has argued (2001) that exactly the same fallacy underlies the PI. Callender and Magnus (2004) have urged that since this shows that “the major considerations for and against realism come to naught”, the whole scientific realism debate (at any rate in what they call the “wholesale” sense) should be 3/6/08 but “ennui”. This paper investigates whether there is anything in these recent arguments that should concern the structural realist or force her to lapse into a state of terminal ennui. I argue that the apparent difficulties raised in the literature are no more than artifacts of the (misguided) way in which the considerations underlying ‘the’ no miracles argument and ‘the’ pessimistic meta-induction have been formalized. This will in turn enable me to clarify some important aspects of Structural Realism, which neither friends nor foes of the position have uniformly taken on board.

Revised 3/6/08 - Copyright 2006