Structuralism as a form of scientific realism

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Structural realism has recently re-entered mainstream discussions in the philosophy of science. The central notion of structure, however, is contested by both advocates and critics. This paper briefly reviews currently prominent structuralist accounts en route to proposing a metaphysics of structure that is capable of supporting the epistemic aspirations of realists, and that is immune to the charge most commonly levelled against structuralism. This account provides an alternative to the existing epistemic and ontic forms of the position, incorporating elements of both. Structures are here identified with relations between first order, causal properties: properties that confer specific dispositions for relations. This form of structuralism constitutes an explicit proposal for what seem implicit structuralist tendencies in sophisticated but more traditional characterizations of realism. An outline of the proposal's response to the anti-realist's pessimistic induction on the history of scientific theories is considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-171
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Studies in the Philosophy of Science
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History and Philosophy of Science


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