Volume 23, Issue 1, 2019
Instrumental Realisms and their Ontological Commitments
This paper shall concern itself with two variants of instrumental realism that have developed independently of each other and have made a mark on contemporary philosophies of science as well as of technology in their own respective ways. One is that of Don Ihde, the progenitor of the postphenomenological approach to technoscience, and the other that of Davis Baird, who emphasizes the epistemic centrality of instruments as bearers of knowledge in themselves. I shall juxtapose Ihde’s instrumental realism with the instrumental realism of Baird, both of whom emphasize the importance of experimentation and instrumentation to any comprehensive philosophy of science. Whereas Ihde wants to extend hermeneutics to science praxis, Baird wants to maintain an epistemological commitment to what he calls ‘thing knowledge.’ In comparing and contrasting these two variants of instrumental realism, I shall discern the implicit ontological and epistemological claims that underlie the two realisms in the background of scientific realism and critically evaluate their contributions to a more comprehensive understanding of science, technology, and the relation between the two.