Abstract

Starting from a brief recapitulation of the contemporary debate on scientific realism, this paper argues for the following thesis: Assume a theory T has been empirically successful in a domain of application A, but was superseded later on by a superior theory T*, which was likewise successful in A but has an arbitrarily different theoretical superstructure. Then under natural conditions T contains certain theoretical expressions, which yielded T's empirical success, such that these T-expressions correspond (in A) to certain theoretical expressions of T*, and given T* is true, they refer indirectly to the entities denoted by these expressions of T*. The thesis is first motivated by a study of the phlogiston–oxygen example. Then the thesis is proved in the form of a logical theorem, and illustrated by further examples. The final sections explain how the correspondence theorem justifies scientific realism and work out the advantages of the suggested account.

  1. Introduction: Pessimistic Meta-induction vs. Structural Correspondence

  2. The Case of the Phlogiston Theory

  3. Steps Towards a Systematic Correspondence Theorem

  4. The Correspondence Theorem and Its Ontological Interpretation

  5. Further Historical Applications

  6. Discussion of the Correspondence Theorem: Objections and Replies

  7. Consequences for Scientific Realism and Comparison with Other Positions

    • 7.1

      Comparison with constructive empiricism

    • 7.2

      Major difference from standard scientific realism

    • 7.3

      From minimal realism and correspondence to scientific realism

    • 7.4

      Comparison with particular realistic positions

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