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“Le réalisme scientifique : une métaphysique tronquée”,
Archives de Philosophie, 57 : 325 – 340 (1994).
SCIENTIFIC REALISM : A TRUNCATED METAPHYSICS
1. Introduction The philosopher's relationship to science is not exempt from neurosis. To the extent that the aim of philosophy is the knowledge of nature, he knows that he has to take into account the information coming from science. This favourable approach to science may be completed by the modest task of clarifying problems conceptually to facilitate the work of the experimentalist, plus the organization of the information in a coherent whole. This movement leads philosophy towards science to the point of merging into it, its meagre identity takes thereby the form of a series of footnotes to the scientific discourse (scientism). Things get worse for the philosopher when he realizes that it is of course the scientist (the expert) who is best equipped to do this auxiliary job: he announces then the death of philosophy. On the other hand, aware of the fact that science is not a neatly logically or mathematically tied web of ideas, that it is underdetermined by experience, that it is often oriented by a pragmatist and opportunist ideology rather than by the search for truth, the philosopher considers it his duty to turn his back to positivistic science and try to develop his own philosophy of nature (for instance, some forms of idealism and
Although some of the doctrines of scientific realism are closer to idealism than to metaphysical realism. explanation as a deductive-nomological argument. and the equilibrium in which it finds itself in some thinker or other is not stable. desires to show the continuity between science and the philosophical interpretation of reality. are to be avoided. 2. for instance. it is then not surprising that scientific realism does more justice to science than to reality. one becomes incapable of turning it to philosophical profit: science provides several ways of “touching” reality (verification and refutation procedures). As all philosophical movement. it can deepen concepts and make fine distinctions. The task is difficult: to try as best one can. all realisms are attracted by metaphysical realism. metaphysical realism is the limit to which they tend. disregard for the feeling of understanding manifested.2 romanticism). True theories and real entities Since the most accomplished expression of the scientific attitude is the construction of theories. Now by getting away from science. It is easier to have an idea of what science is than it is to get a fair idea of reality. A close attention to the nature and modes of reality would transform scientific realism into a metaphysical realism. The scientific realist. as I think. more than any other philosopher. the problem of knowing what is scientific reality is the problem of the . in the assertion that analogical and hermeneutical methods are tokens of pseudo-science. to familiarize oneself with the basis and style of science while never forgetting that its object is the same as that of philosophy: to actualise in the understanding nature's intelligibility. It follows that both reactions. Actually. Scientific realism tends to give too much credence to science while neglecting the critique of the instrumentalist and idealist components of science. If. one begins to understand the positivist (hence idealist) aftertaste of some of its hypotheses: science as the search for laws and as the best example of the action of reason. Much of the critique of scientific realism is derived from this observation: the detailed work on the nature of science is not usually accompanied by a similar detailed reflection on the nature and modes of reality. fusion and separation. Scientific realism has not reached its extreme value. scientific realism has evolved keeping some of its doctrines unchanged while renouncing or revising others in the light of new findings. all of which can significantly contribute to the search for intelligibility. scientific realism is coherent only when extended by metaphysical realism. scientific realism is a truncated realist metaphysics.
observable or unobservable. Unlike the scientific realist. and he easily accommodates himself to the view that there are several worlds revealed to different approaches: there is one world for the scientist. physical or non-physical. Concerning abstract or theoretical entities (e. psi-function). He is willing to recognize that the sole advantage of science is prediction and control. of noumena. Typically. On the other hand. the main problem is to know whether the phenomena accessible to the theory is all there is.g. the instrumentalist is a relativist: his lack of interest in the explanation of reality goes hand in hand with his lack of interest in knowing whether there is ultimately just one reality. According to scientific realism. The situation is not the same for realists and instrumentalists. that they are only useful instruments for the description and prediction of phenomena. if the opposite situation obtains. makes ontological commitments and talks about theoretical facts. Abstract entities are real things or properties (metaphysical realism). If we think that theories have an ontological bearing whose aim is the discovery of nature's depth. and a theory is true if it describes adequately the characteristics of nature. people adopt one of the three following positions: (1) It is said that they are fictitious. if we think that theories do not explain anything. conventionalism). another for the artist. false. the content of theories is factual reality.3 relationship between theory and the phenomena making up its subject-matter. The scientific realist. are grasped or represented by a given theory. (2) It is also argued that abstract entities are part of ultimate reality. etc. electron. some people maintain that abstract entities are part of the structure we project onto the world. the main preoccupation (although not the only one) is to find out exactly what part of reality. what entities and events. which is another way of stating the problem of truth conceived as the correspondence between representation and reality. unlike the instrumentalist. In the adequate description of nature is included the condition that the entities referred to are real. still another for the believer. or whether there are ways other than science capable of leading us to reality. The objective world of science is constituted by man: man . (3) Finally. nominalism. and that such fictions can be useful or useless for the progress of knowledge (empiricism. the instrumentalist does not argue that science is a privileged correspondence with the way the world is.
R. p. The belief in the reality of the entities dealt with is urgent and immediate.2 3. in manipulation. Granted. 2O8-2O9. we can create and control phenomena. what is seen can be confronted with the results obtained by instruments using different physical principles. not in theoretical representation. we can physically act on them. "the final arbitrator in philosophy is not how we think but what we do" . we make progress in the knowledge of the physics presupposed by the microscope. niobium balls are real. Mind. If we can spray niobium balls with positrons.. Only a scientific realism leading to metaphysical realism is coherent. The reason is that there is only one world. they may be unsatisfied with all the theories proposed at a given moment. pp. Ibid. while the belief in the truth of a theory can be postponed to an indefinite future. P. conventionalism. The non-realist may find that his opponent's position is comfortable since he does not have to try to do what is most difficult within the non-realist program: to distinguish the observable from the non-observable. not of 1 Cf. 2 3 4 Ian Hacking. all theories include a dose of convention or free invention. On the other hand. 3 It is in the answer to the question: how can we know that an entity is real? that the materialism underlying scientific realism comes to light. Some criteria of scientific reality How can we know that a given entity is real? For instance.4 discovers in the world what he puts in it (Kantianism). Representing and Intervening.4 it is not strange that the criterion of reality is found in action. how do we know that the structures seen in the microscope are real? Because aberrations are systematically corrected. That is why there is no clear-cut difference between the observable and the non-observable. 1983. p.. Since according to Hacking. The existence of some disputed entities is a matter of scientific experimentation. The epistemological consequence is that there is no sharp borderline between what is observed and what is imagined to account for the observed. pp. or to the information coming from other sciences. 239. Jennings. Cambridge U. 31. . 21-31.1 Nominalism. g. both inhabit the same world. 1989... 'Scientific quasi-realism'. and Kantianism are hardly compatible with the spirit of scientific realism. Hacking remarks that most physicists are realist concerning the entities they manipulate. but realism steps back as the invented or conventional side of theories is blown up. e. Ibid.
8 (Bunge's idea of science determines his entire philosophy). 6. instable. Understanding the world. Every entity is changeable -to be is to become. Decision procedures belong to science. ideology. the best possible knowledge. Dordrecht: Reidel." 7 Everything which can be scientifically studied is material and changeable. can go on forever. "An object x is real if. or (b) every component of x modifies the states of some other components of x. it seems to me.1983. 6 7 Mario Bunge. something whose duration is very limited. Bunge. has been proposed by Mario Bunge.5 philosophy.. But already in the 19th century some thinkers. truth and communication. 21.5 This instrumentalist and pragmatic attitude reminds us of the idea that what makes truth is the action by means of which we apprehend and organize the elements of knowledge. at least to the extent that such debate is "infected with intractable metaphysics". in atomic physics (but not only there). while the theoretical debate. superior to common sense. Scientific Materialism. which is a repetition of Niels Bohr’s statement that experiments are a criterion of existence. but it is not true in general. p. art. Ibid. for instance Henri Bergson in France.1981. "We may characterize a material object as one that can be in at least two different states. Treatise on Basic Philosophy. Such a pragmatism or positivism holds. partially in some human technologies like medicine and agronomy.." 6 Every entity is material (concrete). According to interventionism. Vide also M. 263. 5 Ibid. Thus what is real is dictated by science. believed that science has to do only with action. Scientific realists agree that the scientific practice decides whether something is real. p. 8 M. p. Toulouse: Editions Universitaires du Sud. either (a) there is at least another object y whose states are (or would be) different in the absence of x. Espinoza. and very expensive to produce —strange properties for something which pretends to be real. for instance. fugitive. . although illuminating. Thus the real would be invented through action. "Science et raison". and religion. and only if. the real would be. Essai sur l'intelligibilité de la nature. 31. p. This is one of the senses in which they state that science is not in need of philosophy. and superior of course to pseudo-science. Chapter 11. Dordrecht: Reidel. so that it can jump from one to the other. 23. Vol. A somewhat similar materialistic attitude concerning the criteria of reality.
ed.10 Einstein seemed to be less ready than our contemporaries to base his interpretation of knowledge on the characteristics of the most recent theories. one step backward. 1979. Arthur Fine. 'Einstein's realism'. Philosopher-Scientist. La Salle. Margenau. Einstein. Schilpp.186. We understand now why Bunge. H. (6) Einstein's scientific realism is a materialism. those features are to be added to the following properties acknowledged by Hacking and Bunge: (5) Scientific (physical) reality is monistic -that explains his search for a unified field-theory. Albert Einstein. This theory does not live up to Einstein's ideal because it does not represent things themselves but merely the probability of their occurrence. Leccia. In Einstein's realism.g. Illinois: Open Court. p. provided these objects are situated in different parts of space. and (4) that physical objects enjoy an autonomous existence (locality or separability). Einstein-Max Born correspondance. Vide. 1986. To the extent that the space-time continuum is a physical network of entities. or any philosopher closer to Büchner than to Cf. and (2) causally determined. He thought that we have the right not to accept a philosophically unsatisfactory theory such as quantum mechanics. Paris: Flammarion.9 His idea of truth is not clear-cut because the relationship between theory and reality is difficult to assess: concerning the correspondence theory of truth. 10 9 . for instance. Hanrion. 171-176. The properties of scientific realism Einstein used to think that scientific (physical) reality is (1) subject-independent. (3) that physical objects are arranged in a space-time continuum. This dance is evident at least in his later writings where ideas became more abstract and the concrete support less available. from that of Ludwig Büchner: Einstein would not think that philosophy begins where science ends. The Shaky Game. e. 'Einstein's conception of reality' in A.6 4. translated from the German into French by R. translated from the German into French by P. 1916-1955. and to the extent that physical entities are material. Comment je vois le monde. by A. Realism (a metaphysical doctrine) is also a methodological rule: it is to be placed before science as a criterion of intelligibility.. it seems as if he took one step forward. 1949. That is why his conception of philosophy differs. Chapter 6. A. Paris: Seuil.1972. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. pp.
In that case. for wholes need not possess all 11 J. there is no room for a second or third world containing real entities different from concrete and material ones. search for extreme values. Cambridge University Press. Speakable and Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics. S. Bunge's scientific realism looks almost as pragmatic as Hacking's). What about the more abstract referents of theories as nature's general tendencies? Bunge's answer would be something like this: there is no harm in talking about them as being real. "There is nothing wrong with this. continuity. is unreal because it is a set. p. for instance. op. etc. scientific realists have to review and propose a deeper analysis of such features as causality. "incapable of influencing anything".) and mathematical ideas or structures.12 In Bunge's ontology. Bell distinguishes six "possible worlds of quantum mechanics" 11). Concerning abstract entities.S. are "a process in some brain or a class of brain processes". A theory is composed of sentences whose levels of abstraction differ. Bunge asserts that mathematical structures. pp. is led to put aside several of the properties of Einstein's realism. and their meaning is determined by their empirical adequacy or logical connections with its theoretical context. Those close to sense experience referring to concrete entities such as quarks or molecules have a chance to be confronted with the evidence coming from observation or experiment. 23. and would emit doubts about its usefulness. . Abstract concepts or constructs are useful in theory construction.7 Einstein. cit. (Seen in this way. provided we do not detach them from the things themselves. 181-195. Things become more problematic with abstract entities. Bunge. Bell.. and separability. 12 M. Judging it unwise to engage oneself beyond the possibilities of science. who feels himself forced to accept the results of science. 1987. Scientific Materialism. such as properties like nature's tendencies or dispositions (for instance. e. Thus we can interpret Bunge as saying that a construct is to be maintained as far as it is useful in keeping science going. i. This context includes the theory to which a given sentence belongs as well as the scientific background of the theory. conceived as the set of real objects. some of which are mutually incompatible. Hacking's and Bunge's criteria of reality have a clear role to play. This theory allows us to imagine several interpretations of the world (J. of a theory such as quantum mechanics. Hacking would probably say that the subject matter is too metaphysical (in a pejorative sense) to be settled. as all ideal entities. stability. Reality. determinism.
The entities referred to have to exist. for instance colour. what becomes actual when the organism applies itself to an organismindependent thing. (There is no reason to restrict reality to the humanindependent world). as for most scientists.. .13 Let us summarize: scientific realism is the thesis that the role of science. (1) Scientific realism is a realism. 198O. its principal aim. Since the human organism is a physically real entity. (3) scientific realism implies a correspondence theory of truth.8 the properties of theirs parts". p. theories have to be literally true (Bas van Fraassen has recently insisted on this point)14. I will comment on these five points. 13 14 Ibid. Now.only what is material and concrete is real. Cf. If this is so. how do we know if something is material and concrete? The answer is to be found in the actual practice of scientists: that is material and concrete which can be effectively acted on: (5) scientific realism is a pragmatism. 5. This postulate is required by nothing. is the knowledge of reality. An idea I have already mentioned and to which we will come back in the following chapters while speaking about reality is this: a quality. All scientific realists assert that science gives us the best possible knowledge of reality. is not a subjective. reality is identical to the man-independent reality. Therefore. Oxford: Clarendon Press. but -according to the two versions examined so far. is just as physically real as the man-independent physical thing. 23-24. Bas van Fraassen. the main thesis of scientific realism is that there exists a knowable reality. Three points of view on the same reality For Einstein. The Scientific Image. Thus (4) scientific realism is a materialist monism. which means that the reality unveiled by science is the ultimate reality -there is nothing beyond it: (2) scientific realism is a scientism. In what follows.
Sociedad de Estudios y Publicaciones. The real in this sense is that which is capable of causally affecting something. Unobservable forces are real because we can see the modifications undergone by some motion or other. and in virtue of what. they have a merely symbolic value. a subject-matter for the physical life-sciences. it is not because they are ultra-physical in themselves but.9 immaterial. In the first case. a complete knowledge of reality has to include at least biology. that is real which science says is real. 198O. unreal effect of a physically real cause. for the scientific realist. about the potential as much as about the actual. The difference. . Madrid: Alianza Editorial. Useless fictions have in no way a scientific import. about the visible and the actual. when we pass from science to metaphysics. What metaphysical realists call real is. will be led straight to metaphysics through science. it is the visual reality of the wave itself. vol. Fictions can be either useful or useless. or 15 X. Colour is the physically perceived wave. such is the destiny of spiritual forces. This is so because in (our vision of) colour the wave is not left outside of perception. 1. aspect. because we do not live in the appropriate dimension or have adequate means to detect them. Inteligencia sentiente. The very interesting and open problem. rather. or dimension. While metaphysical realists care about the invisible as much as about the visible. I say 'almost' because scientists cannot ignore that the potential is an essential component of scientific reality. If forces cannot be directly seen by us. either a fiction or a material entity which sooner or later will fall within the reach of our technology. a mathematical entity can be instrumental in contributing to the progress of a mathematical theory which can later be useful in the description of phenomena. The "corrections" concerning the properties of scientific realism operated by postEinsteinian philosophers makes us wonder whether any property of scientific realism. For instance. According to scientific realism. Zubiri. 187. From the point of view of the scientific realist.15 The complementary problem is this: what. p. scientific realists care almost exclusively about facts. If to explain means at least in part to show how the actual emerges from the possible. Inteligencia y realidad. is one of level. is both subjective and unreal? If physics is the science of physical reality independent from the human organism. it is because the content of science and metaphysics is numerically one and the same world. is this: how it is that the organismindependent physical reality becomes or produces a physical and sensible quality. conscious that to explain is to show how the actual emerges from the virtual. A coherent scientific realist.
Instead of recognizing that the 16 M. at the very least.10 of the kind of reality it postulates. others. Reidel. Science emerges when we turn away from common sense. I say "more" because. Bunge. Dordrecht: D. These are the two main theses involved: the passage from common sense to science is either continuous or discontinuous. Bunge puts it this way: "Realism cannot be refuted experimentally because every well-designed and well-performed experiment involves a clear distinction between object. Understanding the World. Anyway. (Some people devote their lives to science and philosophy while being skeptics. If metaphysics is the external juggling with ideas handed out by science. in the end. at least on the surface. whether reality is mathematically structured or whether the ultimate reality is the set of objects uncovered by science. characteristically oriented towards successful action rather than to understanding. scientific. On the contrary. is scientific realism a part of science or of metaphysics? The answer is tautological and not univocal: it depends on how we conceive science. this belief is clearly metaphysical and lies at the basis of the quest for knowledge. more scientific than metaphysical. pp. Treatise on Basic Philosophy. what is being measured by what and by whom". metaphysics may stand or fall with science. whether the ultimate reality is only of one kind. so some people are not coherent). is subject to scientific revision. The result will be that at any given time. for instance. Therefore. metaphysics. 6. Thus Einstein's realism was more metaphysical than scientific. and subject: we must know. scientific realism may become metaphysical. The third kind of realism is the attitude implied in common sense. apparatus. science and metaphysics do form a unity where it is difficult to trace an exact boundary.16 The main thesis of scientific realism is metaphysical. revealed as naive. It is also a rule and a positive motivation. Modern thought favours the latter option. Vol. Now. . but it is not the only one: we do not see how experimental procedures could determine whether some version or other of the correspondence theory of truth is correct. and their relationship. if we do not think that scientific practice -nowadays. 26O-261. it is evident that scientific realism is not a realism if it is not the belief that there exists a knowable world. many of the theses of scientific realism are metaphysical. our contemporaries'.is the final arbitrator of our disputed questions. By metaphysical I mean here that this belief is neither refuted nor justified by the actual practice of scientists. material. some characteristics are metaphysical. in other words.
Thus conceived. If it is true that the elements making up the ultimate reality are unobservable. As I have said. extended by metaphysics. The perceived world is a real aspect of the human-independent reality. Scientism Scientism does not require the acceptance of science in its present state. ultimate reality is colourless and soundless and shapeless and tasteless. While many people prefer a hierarchical organization placing on top one sort of reality. scientific realism is not a realism. are three dimensions. paradoxically. That is why the subject-object dichotomy is misleading. "Philosophy -says Büchnershould limit itself to the conscious gathering of data obtained after a great deal of labour and of the solid notions derived from such a painful work. The opposite attitude would be unscientific and dogmatic. it is a form of idealism. we have seen that scientific realists have revised the characteristics of their movement according to new findings. moments or levels of one and the same reality. in its turn. scientific reality. But the number of the dimensions of ultimate reality is not three. 6. Reality-in-itself passes through man's perception. what appears within perception may be as physically real as the physical thing-in-itself. to employ and elaborate such . I think that the best relation we can imagine between any two of them is one of cooperation under the form of extension and correction: common sense is extended by science which is. scientists turn one against the other.11 humanly perceived reality is an aspect or a dimension of the ultimate reality. If scientific realism is not a point of view on things. and metaphysical reality. metaphysical suggestions should be tied to the evidence coming from both common sense and science. The scientific realist who turns science against common sense is guilty of the symmetrical error which consists in stating that what appears within perception is subjective and therefore unreal (naive scientific realism). By far the best option is the continuity thesis: common sense reality. One of the clearest expressions of scientism is to be found in the writings of some late 19th-century philosophers such as Ludwig Büchner and Félix Le Dantec. Only a continuity from one to the other can set us on the track of significant problems. Common sense is characterized as holding that the humanindependent reality has the properties of the perceived world. aspects. scientific realism is not literally a point of view on the universe but an intellectual position which has to be justified: its relation to the reality perceived by man becomes a problem.
what science reveals to be the case. On the other hand.17 Le Dantec writes: "The biology I dream of is a philosophy. When somebody is convinced that he belongs to the best society. F. Anti-scientistic thinkers disagree: they criticize the pretension that science is the sole activity capable of delivering for us an ultimate reality. Lauth. Büchner. which often means: from physics. a mechanics of human beings. The widely accepted doctrine that science is the best knowledge of the world is often accompanied by. Paris: Librairie Germer Baillière et Cie. 1913. and the other peoples. these philosophers would be sad to see that philosophy has renounced dealing with nature. 397. from the point of view of the relativist. When this conviction is accompanied by the economic and technological power to impose its doctrines. and sometimes logically tied to. and they also argue against the social privilege accorded to scientists. by Husserl. is the ultimate reality. that Europeans are the essence of humanity. They would be happy to learn that science has increased its authority and influence thanks to the great technical progress accomplished in the procedures of manipulation and control of our environment. i. Things have become worse for philosophy since Büchner and Le Dantec. 18 19 . are convinced that one of the most urgent philosophical tasks is the critical examination of the characteristics of science. De l'homme à la science. with the measurable aspects of things. Paris: Flammarion.18 Thus ontology is to be derived from science. has a tendency to be scornful about those who have not seen the light. if indeed it exists. its aim is to describe life in terms of physics and chemistry". London: Verso.e. p. Feyerabend19 points out that uniformity impoverishes human life and diminishes creativity. that it has either taken refuge in linguistic problems or that it tries to reflect on the evidence coming from subjective experience. Human life has much to gain if we are sensitive to the richness 17 L. Those who distrust science's almost exclusive preoccupation with pragmatic success. French translation by G. One smiles when told. more or less happy approximations to the European ideal. the assertion that scientific reality. the uniformity of points of view and of habits follows. Le Dantec. 1882. Cf. Nature et science. In this context. What does Husserl know about it? The objectivist. for instance. 1987. The philosopher should limit himself to observe and use a finished thought graciously handed out to him by the scientist.12 data and notions according to philosophical needs". Farewell to Reason. or if you wish (it is the same thing for me). it is not easy for him to refrain from preaching the good word. Paul Feyerabend.
Truth is somewhere between criteria which are too exclusive and the absence of criteria. Historians teach us that physics and mathematics have driven the Greeks to the world of reason. Feyerabend has studied physics. Feyerabend suggests. for instance. but also to think about them. The first relativists have stressed the relevance of health and disease not only for the perception of things. or. Despite the attacks against the objectivist and his search for . is part of the traditional relativist baggage. that it is not always the case that scientists are motivated exclusively by the search for truth.that they are not scientific. not to science. and Feyerabend's discourse is not an exception to this. from an objectivist point of view. and 'to be' is transformed into 'to be felt'. is to forget that theories are abstract and under-determined by experience. To relation corresponds doxa or opinion. "anything goes". That is the whole interest of a fact the relativist is silent about. Thus 'to appear' means 'to feel'. The anti-scientistic thinker puts a relation where the objectivist places a thing-in-itself. other aims seem to have a growing importance: control over nature and people. scientistic reason. His appeal to science is supposed to be an appeal to universal reason. while medicine has been one of the main sources of inspiration for the sophists. empiricism is inscribed in relativism.13 of reality and to the sundry ways of appreciating things. prestige. that is. To believe that. Between data and theoretical propositions there is room for the arbitrary and conventional. to the reason that standardizes everything. If. which is antinomic because things are antilogical. Feyerabend has said farewell to the opportunist. it manages to correct itself. Paradoxically. for ideology. that everything is right. Knowledge is here tied to sense impression. Hence the need of discussion. we are in need of criteria. money. The fact remains that Feyerabend's vision is inadequate concerning the following problem: it is true that there is no unique criterion of cognitive meaning which would allow us to distinguish once and for all the scientific and the pseudoscientific. pulled out from medicine. He tries to unmask the wolf in sheep's clothing. the scientistic thinker is difficult to criticize because he manages to give the impression that what he does is ideology-free. At first sight. it should not leave out anything. The multiplicity of opinion reflects the diversity inscribed in every thing. This kind of argument. etc. but he does not have reason on his side when he states that if there is one criterion. that science is self-critical. in a word. as he says in a picturesque manner. it is because we would like to know what natural elements and relations we do get to grasp. not to get rid of some non-Western medical practices under the pretext -not demonstrated by duly controlled facts.
that is. I would like to say that the only full-fledged realism is metaphysical realism. Finally. My suggestion is that in the realm of social action as well as in that of knowledge. Thus to carry out a realist epistemology alone. and constitute a necessary complement of. * * * . One could complain that the objectivist (e. no hypothesis seems to be more satisfactory. means to set fire to one's own camp because epistemology has an idealist origin: it was born out of the suspicion concerning man's capacity to know things as they are. and restating the most important idea of this chapter. The epistemological aspect underlines the need to test propositions empirically or mathematically. central to metaphysical realism. metaphysical realism. Concerning the knowledge of nature. or express a stronger motivational value. by insisting on the importance of criteria which would allow us to have the right to say we have learnt something about reality in-itself. is incompatible with the idea. The version which stresses material and empirical verification as a criterion of being.14 criteria.g. Among them. than objectivism. we have much to gain by being sensitive to cultural pluralism. than some form or other of realism. 7. begs the question. The skeptic would have to feel uncomfortable when he finds himself surrounded by the amount of knowledge stored by man. Many of the other epistemological features of scientific realism are quite compatible with. The version according to which mathematical entities are fictitious is incompatible with realism in physics. and that the main value of scientific realism is to lead us step by step to it. the belief that to the intelligible unity of the universe has to correspond eventually a unified cognitive field. Scientific realism is a necessary premise to this end especially in a century where metaphysics has cut the ties with science. Conclusion Scientific realism is both an epistemological and an ontological doctrine. But such observation would bring to light an untenable feature of relativism: scepticism. the idea that the aim of science is the search for truth about reality. instead of including it within a metaphysical framework. which is not an invitation to become skeptic. that nature is not equivalent to our direct or indirect experience of it. the scientific or the metaphysic realist). the problem stays open.