Pragmatic Scientific Realism

This text is about explanation in practice.  Thus while the philosophical literature re scientific realism is rather vast, the bulk of that literature is too technical to be a heuristic for everyday actions.  To accommodate this emphasis on the everyday, we approach scientific realism from a constrained pragmatic perspective.   There are, for example, important differences between the ways in which scientists and practitioners construct and use explanations. The scientist aims to use established explanations as a starting point for the production of further, true explanations.  In practice, the scientist makes use of explanations as the basis on which to make predictions.  Successful predictions, in turn, help to generate the theories which then become the basis for further explanations.  The practitioner's aims are different --  relying on explanations only insofar as they are useful.  For the scientific realist, an explanation is good if it is accurate. Pragmatic success is, at best, a secondary desideratum.

Pragmatic scientific realism relies on the fundamental beliefs that reality is independent of the observer, that truth is foremost, that science offers a means by which we can gain access to better representations of the underlying reality or truth and that it is foundational to act as if those representations are themselves true.   Explanations in the form of "how" are thus revelatory of truth.  Explanations in the form of "why" are truth  revealing to the extent that they offer a "fit" with respect to the previously revealed order.  Measures of degree of fit have explanatory meaning. Both how and why then can be used as the basis for prediction.  Reliable prediction becomes the guide for action.

But a caution is in order.  This pragmatic scientific realism works well in a world focused on regularities rather than individuals and defines "truth" often in the form of indexicals.  Pragmatic scientific realism has been shown to work well in the Science 1 domains.   Science 2 by contrast offers challenges to this perspective.