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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Professor Nirmalangshu Mukherji: Science, Truth, Intelligibility

27th January 2009, 17:30 to 18:30, Lecture Room 21, Pemberton Building, Palace Green

IAS/St Cuthbert's Society Public Lecture

One of the most compelling images of modern science is its apparent ability to unearth the ‘real properties of matter’ from below the chaos encountered in the ‘world of ordinary experiences’ (Chomsky 1991).

The image supports a common conception of science – sometimes called the ‘modernist perspective’ – that views science as a harbinger of truth: the realist position. In contrast, there is a minority, anarchist view in the philosophy of science which says that scientific theories necessarily fail to describe the world. In its extreme form, held notably by Nancy Cartright (1983), this view says that scientific theories are lies: the anti-realist position. In this paper, I attempt a reconciliation of the contrasting views without submitting either to a realist or an anti-realist position on science. In effect, I would be suggesting that the supposed opposition between realism and anti-realism need not be substantive.

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