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Realism And Antirealism

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Posted by Harvey on January 30, 2002 23:39:00 UTC

I'm not sure where you stand on the realist and anti-realist debate (i.e., in terms of laws of physics). The realists here would be me, Alex, Mark, Alan, and Mario. The antirealists would be Dick, Aurino, probably Luis, and maybe Paul. I'm not sure about Paul bcz he is very much involved in Dick's antirealist views but seems to favor a realist interpretation of them(?).

If you want to know if you are a realist, just ask yourself if you think that humans make up the laws of physics to match our observations (i.e., true by definition), or whether we are merely reciting the laws that are 'out there' - true because they are true. Realism says that the laws are ultimately irreducible, and antirealism says the laws reduce to our own interpretations of them (e.g., our way of perception, instrumentally useful, etc). Where do you stand?

Technically, I'm what is called a sophisticated realist. I think a great deal of our laws can be reduced to something that is limited to our individual perceptions (e.g., classical laws which are really limits to our perception - if Galileo, Kepler, Newton et al. were capable of sensing the quantum world, they certainly would have wrote the laws of physics differently than they did). On the other hand, I sense that all of these approximations reduce to "something" that is 'out there' and is true. The approximations are real, but they are also much more convenient for us to see.

Warm regards, Harv

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