Relativism and scientific realism

Authored by: Stathis Psillos , Jamie Shaw

The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Relativism

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  December  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138484283
eBook ISBN: 9781351052306
Adobe ISBN:


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The purpose of this chapter is to assess whether or not relativism and scientific realism are compatible. Since “relativism” and “realism” have been defined in innumerous ways, we focus on explanatory defenses of realism and the relativism of the Strong Programme and that which is entailed by the Incommensurability Thesis. We argue that neither version of relativism is compatible with realism in this sense. Specifically, we argue that the relativism of the Strong Programme is inconsistent with the realist claim that scientists uncover truths about nature which explain the success of scientific theories. We also argue that the Incommensurability Thesis is at odds with the realist adoption of the causal theory of reference.

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