Journal of Philosophical Investigations

Document Type : Research Paper


1 M.A. Student of Philosophy of Science, Sharif University of Technology, Iran.

2 Associate Professor of Philosophy of Science Department, Sharif University of Technology, Iran

3 M.A. of Philosophy of Science, Sharif University of Technology, Iran


Scientific realism has always faced continuous criticisms from scientific anti-realists. Kyle Stanford's "unconceived alternatives" argument can be seen as a late and troublesome version of these challenges. In this paper, we will first briefly mention scientific realism and its supporting arguments, including the "no-miracle" argument and the "slippery slope" argument. Then we will list the main challenges that scientific realism has faced. Arguments such as "pessimistic meta-induction" and "underdetermination of scientific theories" are raised against scientific realism. In the following, we will take a look at Stanford's argument and examine how it creates a challenge for realism by combining historical and philosophical arguments, and we will also describe the realist answers raised to the said challenge. We will also try to explain from Roy Bhaskar's critical realism point of view how the Stratified view of the world and scientific theories, makes it possible to achieve knowledge of reality through scientific activity and also can weaken the basis of Stanford's anti-realist argument.


Main Subjects

Abdollahi, J., & Akbari Takhtameshlou, J. (2021). Underdetermination and Scientific Realism. Journal of Philosophical Investigations, 15(34), 224-247. (in Persian)
Archer, M., & et al. (eds.) (2013). Critical realism: Essential readings. Routledge.
Baert, P. (2005). Philosophy of the social sciences: towards pragmatism. Polity.
Benton, T, & Craib, I. (2010). Philosophy of Social Science: the philosophical foundations of social thought. Macmillan International Higher Education.
Bhaskar, R. (2014). The Possibility of Naturalism: a philosophical critique of the contemporary human sciences. Routledge.
Bhaskar, R. (2008). A Realist Theory of Science. Routledge.
Bhaskar, R. (2009). Scientific Realism and Human Emancipation. Routledge.
Bhaskar, R. (2010). Reclaiming Reality: a critical introduction to contemporary philosophy. Routledge.
Boyd, R. N. (1973). Realism, underdetermination, and a causal theory of evidence. Nous, 7(1), 1-12.
Danermark, B. & et al. (2002). Explaining Society: Critical realism in the social sciences. Routledge.
Devitt, M. (2011). Are unconceived alternatives a problem for scientific realism? Journal for General Philosophy of Science, Vol. 42, pp. 285-293.
Fahrbach, L. (2011). How the growth of science ends theory change. Synthese, Vol. 180, pp. 139-155.
Hooker, C. A. (1987). A Realistic Theory of Science. Suny Press.
Kukla, A. (1998). Studies in Scientific Realism. Oxford University Press on Demand.
Ladyman, J. (1998). What is structural realism? Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, 29(3), 409-424.
Ladyman, J. (2012). Understanding Philosophy of Science, Routledge.
Laudan, L. (1981). A confutation of convergent realism. Philosophy of Science, 48(1), 19-49.
McWherter, D. (2012). Reconstructing Bhaskar's transcendental analysis of experimental activity, Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, 8(1), 199-226.
Mizrahi, M. (2015). Historical inductions: New cherries, same old cherry-picking. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 29(2), 129-148.
Poostforush, M., & Taqavi, M. (2021). Scientific Revolutions and Progress: reflections on Kuhn's and Bhaskar's philosophy of science. Journal of Philosophical Investigations, 15(35), 1-16. (in Persian)
Psillos, S. (1999). Scientific Realism: How science tracks truth. Psychology Press.
Psillos, S. (2001). Predictive similarity and the success of science: A reply to Stanford. Philosophy of Science, 68(3), 346-355.
Psillos, S. (2009). Grasping at realist straws. In Review Symposium, Metascience. Vol. 18, pp. 363-370.
Putnam, H. (1975). Mathematics, Matter and Method: Vol. 1, Philosophical Papers. CUP Archive.
Rowbottom, D. P. (2019). Extending the argument from unconceived alternatives: observations, models, predictions, explanations, methods, instruments, experiments, and values. Synthese, 196(10), pp. 3947-3959.
Ruhmkorff, S. (2011). Some difficulties for the problem of unconceived alternatives. Philosophy of Science78(5), 875-886.
Saatsi, J. (2009). Grasping at realist straws, in: Review Symposium, Metascience. Vol. 18, pp. 355–362.
Sankey, H. (2008). Scientific Realism and the Rationality of Science. Ashgate Publishing Ltd.
Smart, J. J. C. (1963). Physics and biology. Philosophy and Scientific Realism, pp. 50-63. Routledge.
Stanford, P. K. (2006). Exceeding Our Grasp: Science, history, and the problem of unconceived alternatives. Oxford University Press.
Van Dyck, M. (2007). Constructive Empiricism and the Argument from Underdetermination. Images of Empiricism. pp. 11-31. Oxford University Press.