On Hacking and van Fraassen

On Hacking and van Fraassen - On Hacking and van Fraassen...

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On Hacking and van Fraassen Ian Hacking and Bas van Fraassen both present compelling accounts of their standpoints regarding the scientific philosophy of realism. The two works, “Arguments Concerning Scientific Realism” and “Do We See Through a Microscope?” relate to each other in many ways, both through their similarities and their differences. This essay will present a summary of each of these two articles, followed by a discussion of how they relate to one another, and conclude with an evaluation of this relationship. In his introductory section, van Fraassen is essentially making a series of statements and clarifications that will facilitate the reader’s understanding of the subsequent sections where criticisms are presented. The first such statement is the admittedly naive statement of position of scientific realism: the picture science gives us of the world is true and the entities postulated in science really exist. Another definition van Fraassen gives in his introduction is that of constructive empiricism (which he is an advocate of), which he says is the thought that science aims to give us theories which are empirically adequate, and nothing more. The next few sections critically examine some of the arguments offered by scientific realists and look into the reasons that many people support these arguments. The first of these sections looks at the, “. ..new realists’ contention that the theory/observation distinction cannot be drawn” (14). Two discussions come of this topic, one is whether our language can be divided into a theoretical and non-theoretical part or not, and the second is whether or not we can classify objects into observable and non-observable ones. Regarding the first of these questions, van Fraassen is in agreement with the realists that the answer is no, although he claims that we cannot conclude with scientific realism from the theory-ladenness of our language. The second
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question is supported by the realists’ argument from the continuum of cases (we observe through a window, glasses, binoculars, low-power microscope etc.) and is refuted by van Fraassen by claiming that the difference in the cases lies in whether or not certain circumstances were
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This note was uploaded on 04/29/2008 for the course PHIL 221 taught by Professor Rosenberger during the Fall '08 term at McGill.

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On Hacking and van Fraassen - On Hacking and van Fraassen...

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