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The Journal of Philosophy

Volume 112, Issue 8, August 2015

P. Kyle Stanford
Pages 397-416
DOI: 10.5840/jphil2015112825

"Atoms Exist" Is Probably True, and Other Facts That Should Not Comfort Scientific Realists

Critics who use historical evidence to challenge scientific realism have deployed a perfectly natural argumentative strategy that has created a profoundly misguided conception of what would be required to vindicate that challenge. I argue that the question fundamentally in dispute in such debates is neither whether particular terms in contemporary scientific theories will be treated as referential nor whether particular existential commitments will be held true by future scientific communities, but whether the future of science will exhibit the same broad pattern of repeated, profound, and unpredictable changes in theoretical orthodoxy that such historicist critics argue characterizes its past.