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The Miraculous Choice Argument for Realism

E. C. Barnes
Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition
Vol. 111, No. 2 (Nov., 2002), pp. 97-120
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4321310
Page Count: 24
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The Miraculous Choice Argument for Realism
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Abstract

The miracle argument for scientific realism can be cast in two forms: according to the miraculous theory argument, realism is the only position which does not make the empirical successes of particular theories miraculous. According to the miraculous choice argument, realism is the only position which does not render the fact that empirically successful theories have been chosen a miracle. A vast literature discusses the miraculous theory argument, but the miraculous choice argument has been unjustifiably neglected. I raise two objections to Richard Boyd's defense of the latter: (1) we have no miracle free account of the emergence of take-off theories and (2) the anti-realist can account for the non-miraculous choice of empirically successful theories by attributing mere empirical adequacy to background theory. I argue that the availability of extra-empirical criteria that are arguably truth conductive but not theory-laden suffices to answer (1), and the unavailability of extra-empirical criteria that are conductive to empirical adequacy but not necessarily to truth (and are also not theory-laden) constitutes to reply to (2). The prospects for a realist victory are at least somewhat promising, on a controversial assumption about the rate at which empirically successful theories emerge.

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