Structural realism, a way to be a scientific realist?

In the scientific realism vs instrumentalism debate, realism is the position that the elements of a scientific theory represent reality. So when general relativity talks about space warping, space really is warping. Instrumentalism, or anti-realism, is the stance that scientific theories are just prediction mechanisms, with no guarantee that they represent reality. Under instrumentalism, general … Continue reading Structural realism, a way to be a scientific realist?

Scientific theories and prescriptive vs descriptive instrumentalism

Those of you who've known me a while may remember that I dislike accepting philosophical labels. For example, although the labels "materialist" or "physicalist" are more or less accurate descriptions of what I think, they often seem to imply an ideological rigidity I'm not comfortable with. My attitude toward these labels somewhat resonates with Neil … Continue reading Scientific theories and prescriptive vs descriptive instrumentalism

The iron rule of science?

I'm always interested in new takes on the demarcation between science and non-science, so after seeing the New Yorker write up on Michael Strevens' new book, The Knowledge Machine: How Irrationality Created Modern Science, it seemed like something I needed to read. Strevens begins by examining the two leading theories of science: Karl Popper's falsifiability … Continue reading The iron rule of science?

The substitution argument

Diagram of Phenomenal and Functional consciousness

A preprint came up a few times in my feeds, titled: Falsification and consciousness.  The paper argues that all the major scientific theories of consciousness are either already falsified or unfalsifiable.  One neuroscientist, Ryota Kanai, calls it a mathematical proof of the hard problem.  Based on that description, it was hard to resist looking at … Continue reading The substitution argument

The mechanical philosophy and mysterianism

Noam Chomsky published an essay on his web site a few years ago: Science, Mind, and Limits of Understanding.  Chomsky's thesis is that there are areas of reality that science is simply incapable of understanding.  He uses as his principle example, the case of Isaac Newton's understanding of gravity. Chomsky acknowledges that this is a … Continue reading The mechanical philosophy and mysterianism