•  2823
    The literature on the indispensability argument for mathematical realism often refers to the ‘indispensable explanatory role’ of mathematics. I argue that we should examine the notion of explanatory indispensability from the point of view of specific conceptions of scientific explanation. The reason is that explanatory indispensability in and of itself turns out to be insufficient for justifying the ontological conclusions at stake. To show this I introduce a distinction between different kinds …Read more
  •  1107
    Explanation and explanationism in science and metaphysics
    In Matthew Slater & Zanja Yudell (eds.), Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Science: New Essays, Oxford University Press. forthcoming.
    This chapter examines the status of inference to the best explanation in naturalistic metaphysics. The methodology of inference to the best explanation in metaphysics is studied from the perspective of contemporary views on scientific explanation and explanatory inferences in the history and philosophy of science. This reveals serious shortcomings in prevalent attempts to vindicate metaphysical "explanationism" by reference to similarities between science and naturalistic metaphysics. This cri…Read more
  •  861
    We demonstrate how real progress can be made in the debate surrounding the enhanced indispensability argument. Drawing on a counterfactual theory of explanation, well-motivated independently of the debate, we provide a novel analysis of ‘explanatory generality’ and how mathematics is involved in its procurement. On our analysis, mathematics’ sole explanatory contribution to the procurement of explanatory generality is to make counterfactual information about physical dependencies easier to grasp…Read more
  •  707
    Scientific Realism and the Quantum (edited book)
    with Steven French
    Oxford University Press. 2020.
    Quantum theory explains a hugely diverse array of phenomena in the history of science. But how can the world be the way quantum theory says it is? Fifteen expert scholars consider what the world is like according to quantum physics in this volume and offer illuminating new perspectives on fundamental debates that span physics and philosophy.
  •  663
    This chapter examines issues surrounding inference to the best explanation, its justification, and its role in different arguments for scientific realism, as well as more general issues concerning explanations’ ontological commitments. Defending the reliability of inference to the best explanation has been a central plank in various realist arguments, and realists have drawn various ontological conclusions from the premise that a given scientific explanation best explains some phenomenon. This c…Read more
  •  623
    On Explanations from Geometry of Motion
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 69 (1). 2018.
    This paper examines explanations that turn on non-local geometrical facts about the space of possible configurations a system can occupy. I argue that it makes sense to contrast such explanations from "geometry of motion" with causal explanations. I also explore how my analysis of these explanations cuts across the distinction between kinematics and dynamics.
  •  601
    Explanatory Abstractions
    with Lina Jansson
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (3). 2019.
    A number of philosophers have recently suggested that some abstract, plausibly non-causal and/or mathematical, explanations explain in a way that is radically dif- ferent from the way causal explanation explain. Namely, while causal explanations explain by providing information about causal dependence, allegedly some abstract explanations explain in a way tied to the independence of the explanandum from the microdetails, or causal laws, for example. We oppose this recent trend to regard abstract…Read more
  •  594
    I examine the epistemological debate on scientific realism in the context of quantum physics, focusing on the empirical underdetermin- ation of different formulations and interpretations of QM. I will argue that much of the interpretational, metaphysical work on QM tran- scends the kinds of realist commitments that are well-motivated in the light of the history of science. I sketch a way of demarcating empirically well-confirmed aspects of QM from speculative quantum metaphysics in a way that co…Read more
  •  499
    This paper analyses the anti-reductionist argument from renormalisation group explanations of universality, and shows how it can be rebutted if one assumes that the explanation in question is captured by the counterfactual dependence account of explanation.
  •  436
    The central concern of this article is whether the semantic approach has the resources to appropriately capture the core tenets of structural realism. Chakravartty (2001) has argued that a realist notion of correspondence cannot be accommodated without introducing a linguistic component, which undermines the approach itself. We suggest that this worry can be addressed by an appropriate understanding of the role of language in this context. The real challenge, however, is how to incorporate the c…Read more
  •  379
    Dynamical Systems Theory and Explanatory Indispensability
    Philosophy of Science 84 (5): 892-904. 2017.
    I examine explanations’ realist commitments in relation to dynamical systems theory. First I rebut an ‘explanatory indispensability argument’ for mathematical realism from the explanatory power of phase spaces (Lyon and Colyvan 2007). Then I critically consider a possible way of strengthening the indispensability argument by reference to attractors in dynamical systems theory. The take-home message is that understanding of the modal character of explanations (in dynamical systems theory) can und…Read more
  •  368
    Models, Idealisations, and Realism
    In F. Sterpetti, E. Ippoloti & T. Nickles (eds.), Models and Inferences in Science, Springer. 2016.
    I explore a challenge that idealisations pose to scientific realism and argue that the realist can best accommodate idealisations by capitalising on certain modal features of idealised models that are underwritten by laws of nature.
  •  352
    Form-driven vs. content-driven arguments for realism
    In P. D. Magnus & Jacob Busch (eds.), New Waves in Philosophy of Science, Palgrave-macmillan. 2010.
    I offer a meta-level analysis of realist arguments for the reliability of ampliative reasoning about the unobservable. We can distinguish form-driven and content-driven arguments for realism: form-driven arguments appeal to the form of inductive inferences, whilst content-driven arguments appeal to their specific content. After regimenting the realism debate in these terms, I will argue that the content-driven arguments are preferable. Along the way I will discuss how my analysis relates to John…Read more
  •  347
    On the pessimistic induction and two fallacies
    Philosophy of Science 72 (5): 1088-1098. 2005.
    The Pessimistic Induction from falsity of past theories forms a perennial argument against scientific realism. This paper considers and rebuts two recent arguments—due to Lewis (2001) and Lange (2002)—to the conclusion that the Pessimistic Induction (in its best known form) is fallacious. It re-establishes the dignity of the Pessimistic Induction by calling to mind the basic objective of the argument, and hence restores the propriety of the realist program of responding to PMI by undermining one…Read more
  •  312
    Historical inductions, Old and New
    Synthese 1-15. 2015.
    I review prominent historical arguments against scientific realism to indicate how they display a systematic overshooting in the conclusions drawn from the historical evidence. The root of the overshooting can be located in some critical, undue presuppositions regarding realism. I will highlight these presuppositions in connection with both Laudan’s ‘Old induction’ and Stanford’s New induction, and then delineate a minimal realist view that does without the problematic presuppositions.
  •  249
    This is an introduction to the volume "Explanation Beyond Causation: Philosophical Perspectives on Non-Causal Explanations", edited by A. Reutlinger and J. Saatsi (OUP, forthcoming in 2017). Explanations are very important to us in many contexts: in science, mathematics, philosophy, and also in everyday and juridical contexts. But what is an explanation? In the philosophical study of explanation, there is long-standing, influential tradition that links explanation intimately to causation: we oft…Read more
  •  234
    The Enhanced Indispensability Argument: Representational versus Explanatory Role of Mathematics in Science
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 62 (1): 143-154. 2011.
    The Enhanced Indispensability Argument (Baker [ 2009 ]) exemplifies the new wave of the indispensability argument for mathematical Platonism. The new wave capitalizes on mathematics' role in scientific explanations. I will criticize some analyses of mathematics' explanatory function. In turn, I will emphasize the representational role of mathematics, and argue that the debate would significantly benefit from acknowledging this alternative viewpoint to mathematics' contribution to scientific expl…Read more
  •  208
    This chapter defends a (minimal) realist conception of progress in scientific understanding in the face of the ubiquitous plurality of perspectives in science. The argument turns on the counterfactual-dependence framework of explanation and understanding, which is illustrated and evidenced with reference to different explanations of the rainbow.
  •  188
    Replacing recipe realism
    Synthese 194 (9): 3233-3244. 2017.
    Many realist writings exemplify the spirit of ‘recipe realism’. Here I characterise recipe realism, challenge it, and propose replacing it with ‘exemplar realism’. This alternative understanding of realism is more piecemeal, robust, and better in tune with scientists’ own attitude towards their best theories, and thus to be preferred.
  •  174
    Whence Ontological Structural Realism?
    In M. Rédei M. Dorato M. Suàrez (ed.), Epsa Epistemology and Methodology of Science, Springer. pp. 255--265. 2008.
    'Structural realism' is a buzzword in the scientific realism debate. Various positions with diverse motivations fall under this label. A much advertised distinction is between epistemic and ontological forms of structuralism. This paper scrutinizes the alleged dichotomy between these two 'alternatives', and criticises the considerations that have been taken to motivate the ontic variety over the epistemic. I will argue that ontological structural realism is not called for within the traditional …Read more
  •  160
    We reassess Woodward’s counterfactual account of explanation in relation to regularity explananda. Woodward presents an account of causal explanation. We argue, by using an explanation of Kleiber’s law to illustrate, that the account can also cover some noncausal explanations. This leads to a tension between the two key aspects of Woodward’s account: the counterfactual aspect and the causal aspect. We explore this tension and make a case for jettisoning the causal aspect as constitutive of expla…Read more
  •  139
    This paper discusses three shortcomings of the current state of the debate regarding historical evidence against scientific realism. Attending to these issues will direct the debate away from over-generalising wholesale arguments.
  •  138
    Ramseyfication and theoretical content
    with Joseph Melia
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 57 (3): 561-585. 2006.
    Model theoretic considerations purportedly show that a certain version of structural realism, one which articulates the nvtion of structure via Ramsey sentences, is in fact trivially true. In this paper we argue that the structural realist is by no means forced to Ramseyfy in the manner assumed in the formal proof. However, the structural realist's reprise is short-lived. For, as we show, there are related versions of the model theoretic argument which cannot be so easily blocked by the structur…Read more
  •  137
    Mathematics and Program Explanations
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (3): 579-584. 2012.
    Aidan Lyon has recently argued that some mathematical explanations of empirical facts can be understood as program explanations. I present three objections to his argument
  •  112
    Inconsistency and scientific realism
    Synthese 191 (13): 2941-2955. 2014.
    I erect a framework within the semantic view of theories for explaining the empirical success of internally inconsistent models and theories, with scientific realism in mind. The framework is an instance of the ‘content-driven’ approach to inconsistency, advocated by both Norton (Philos Sci 54:327–350, 1987) and Smith (Stud Hist Philos Sci 19:429–445, 1988a, In: Fine A, Leplin J (eds) PSA1988, 1988b), whose ideas my analysis aims to clarify and substantiate.
  •  111
    Miraculous Success? Inconsistency and Untruth in Kirchhoff’s Diffraction Theory
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 62 (1): 29-46. 2011.
    Kirchhoff’s diffraction theory is introduced as a new case study in the realism debate. The theory is extremely successful despite being both inconsistent and not even approximately true. Some habitual realist proclamations simply cannot be maintained in the face of Kirchhoff’s theory, as the realist is forced to acknowledge that theoretical success can in some circumstances be explained in terms other than truth. The idiosyncrasy (or otherwise) of Kirchhoff’s case is considered
  •  110
    Reconsidering the Fresnel–Maxwell theory shift: how the realist can have her cake and EAT it too
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 36 (3): 509-538. 2005.
    This paper takes another look at a case study which has featured prominently in a variety of arguments for rival realist positions. After critically reviewing the previous commentaries of the theory shift that took place in the transition from Fresnel’s ether to Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory of optics, it will defend a slightly different reading of this historical case study. Central to this task is the notion of explanatory approximate truth, a concept which must be carefully analysed to beg…Read more
  •  109
    The Structural Foundations of Quantum Gravity (edited book)
    Oxford University Press. 2006.
    What is spacetime? General relativity and quantum field theory answer this question in very different ways. This collection of essays by physicists and philosophers looks at the problem of uniting these two most fundamental theories of our world, focusing on the nature of space and time within this new quantum framework, and the kind of metaphysical picture suggested by recent developments in physics and mathematics. This is a book that will inspire further philosophical reflection on recent adv…Read more
  •  105
    Structuralism with and without causation
    Synthese 194 (7): 2255-2271. 2017.
    This paper explores the status of causation in structuralist metaphysics of physics. What role (if any) does causation play in understanding ‘structure’ in ontological structural realism? I address this question by examining, in a structuralist setting, arguments for and against the idea that fundamental physics deals, perhaps exclusively, with causal properties. I will argue (against Esfeld, Dorato and others) that a structuralist interpretation of fundamental physics should diverge from ‘causa…Read more