Volume 10, 2001
Philosophy of Science
Theo A. F. Kuipers
Epistemological Positions in the Light of Truth Approximation
I sketch the most important epistemological positions in the instrumentalism-realism debate, viz., instrumentalism, constructive empiricism, referential realism, and theory realism. I order them according to their answers to a number of successive leading questions, where every next question presupposes an affirmative answer to the foregoing one. I include the answer to questions concerning truth, as well as the most plausible answer to questions concerning truth approximation. Restricting my survey to the natural sciences and hence to the natural world, I indicate the implications of the results of the study of empirical progress and truth approximation for the way these epistemological positions are related. I conclude that there are good reasons for the instrumentalist to become a constructive empiricist; in order to give deeper explanations of success differences, the constructive empiricist is forced to become a referential realist; and, there are good reasons for the referential realist to become a theory realist of a non-essentialist nature, here called a constructive realist.