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Vetenskapens verklighet: Om motsättningen mellan realism och konstruktivism i vetenskapsfilosofin
Uppsala University, Humanistisk-samhällsvetenskapliga vetenskapsområdet, Faculty of Arts, Department of Philosophy.
2002 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis investigates the conflict between a constructivist and a realist understanding of scientific theories. It focuses on the constructivism formulated by Thomas S. Kuhn and the realism formulated by Richard Boyd, but also relates these conceptions to other forms of constructivism and realism described in the literature.

Chapter 1 presents ideas that are claimed to anticipate Kuhn’s constructivism. Among topics discussed are Ludwig Wittgenstein’s idea that the basic principles of Newtonian mechanics determine the form of the scientific description and Pierre Duhem’s idea of natural classifications. Chapter 2 gives an introduction to the constructivist aspects of Kuhn’s philosophy of science. Chapter 3 presents Boyd’s realism and Chapter 4 involves a comparison of Kuhn’s and Boyd’s conceptions of reference.

Chapter 5 argues that Boyd’s way of describing the conflict between constructivism and realism is misleading. It shows that Boyd takes a philosophical discourse for granted in his description of scientific theories; a discourse consisting of a set of terms and expressions and a specific way of using these terms and expressions. Kuhn also uses a philosophical discourse in his description of scientific theories, a discourse that is different from Boyd’s and unlike Boyd he introduces it explicitly, rather than takes it for granted. As the main result of the chapter (and of the dissertation) it is argued that the conflict between constructivism and realism is best understood as an opposition between different philosophical discourses or languages.

Chapter 5 further investigates the claim of general applicability expressed in Boyd’s and Kuhn’s theories. It argues that this claim is, in a sense, built into the philosophical languages they use. In connection with a constructivist and a realist interpretation of two biological theories (Hennig’s phylogentic systematics and Linnaeus’ essentialist systematics), it is suggested that the generality claims are unfounded and should be rejected.

Chapter 5 ends by suggesting that the way of understanding the conflict between scientific realism and constructivism proposed in this thesis, namely as a conflict between different philosophical discourses or languages, applies also to other conflicts in contemporary philosophy of science.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Filosofiska institutionen , 2002. , 134 p.
Keyword [en]
Theoretical philosophy, constructivism, realism, scientific theory, world, reality, language, Kuhn, Boyd
Keyword [sv]
Teoretisk filosofi
National Category
Research subject
Theoretical Philosophy
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-2640OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-2640DiVA: diva2:161988
Public defence
2002-10-12, universitetshuset sal IV, Uppsala, 10:15
Available from: 2002-09-18 Created: 2002-09-18Bibliographically approved

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