A Methodological Argument Against Scientific Realism

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


First, I identify a methodological thesis associated with scientific realism. This has different variants, but each concerns the reliability of scientific methods in connection with acquiring, or approaching, truth or approximate truth. Second, I show how this thesis bears on what scientists should do when considering new theories that significantly contradict older theories. Third, I explore how vulnerable scientific realism is to a reductio ad absurdum as a result. Finally, I consider which variants of the methodological thesis are the most defensible in light of the earlier findings.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
Early online date8 Jun 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

This paper is based on talks given at Cambridge University’s Philosophy of Science Seminar and Durham University’s Institute of Advanced Study. I am grateful to various audience members for comments, and particularly Robin Hendry, Milena Ivanova, Brian Pitts, and Jacob Stegenga. I am greatly indebted to Simon Goldstein and Jiji Zhang for insightful comments on drafts of the paper.


  • Confirmation
  • Historical evidence
  • Scientific method
  • Scientific realism
  • Theory change

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