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Title: Structural realism : a critical appraisal
Author: Ainsworth, Peter M.
Awarding Body: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Current Institution: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Date of Award: 2008
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Three principal forms of structural realism are distinguished in this thesis: weak epistemic structural realism (WESR), strong epistemic structural realism (SESR) and ontic structural realism (OSR). In chapter 1, it is argued that the positive argument in favour of WESR, i.e. the claim that it can accommodate the no miracles argument and the pessimistic induction is unconvincing, because (i) the no miracles argument is flawed, so it is no particular virtue of WESR that it can accommodate it and (ii) it is not clear that WESR really can accommodate the pessimistic induction. In chapter 2, it is argued that there are unresolved difficulties in drawing the observable/unobservable distinction (or an appropriate alternative distinction) in a way that is suitable for the WESRist's purposes. In chapter 3, it is argued that the main argument for SESR is unconvincing, because it is based on Russell's principle of acquaintance (or a modern variant of this principle), a principle for which no substantial argument has been given and which has absurd consequences (as shown in appendix 2). In chapter 4, it is argued that neither the WESRist nor the SESRist has provided a convincing response to Newman's objection. In chapter 5, it is argued that, depending on how one interprets the doctrine, OSR is either (i) wholly untenable or (ii) conventional scientific realism (or antirealism) combined with the traditional metaphysical view that objects are bundles of properties and that in the latter case the doctrine has some plausibility, but the arguments that have been adduced in favour of it are inconclusive. The thesis is concluded with a sketch of the sort of position in the scientific realism debate that I find more attractive.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available