Saturday, February 26, 2011

Scientific realism and idealizations

Roy Sorensen and Michael Weisberg talk about the subject here.

My comments and questions:

“If pigs can fly, then phlogiston causes fire.” This statement is vacuously true. If Sorenson is correct, all claims/theories in science which depend on idealizations are similarly vacuously true since the antecendent is false. Now Sorensen says at 42-43 minute mark that there has to be some “premises” which are added to render certain claims/theories less accurate or correct. But this is not clear and it seems to me to be a little too imprecise to make much sense of his supposition theory.

In any case, I suspect it will not appease realists and may be ammunition for the instrumentalist and other anti-realists that all theories, true or otherwise (under more intuitive notions of scientific truth which seems to be about the world and which are true or false simpliciter and not true under logical material implication with an added false supposition as antecendent), in science or otherwise are similarly vacuously true even if they happen to be less or more accurate, etc, under some premise. In this way, no theory is really true in a more robust sense required by the realist because they will always be vacuously true under some (false) idealization.

What I am missing from Sorensen’s account here?