The objective of science is elucidate some sort of “truth” with regard to the world and how it works. But how do we arrive at this concept of “truth”? Epistomology, or the study of the origin, nature and limits to the production of human knowledge, provides a multitude of frameworks from which to work from. These approaches address the creation of knowledge and provide the scientist or observer with a reference from which to test the limits and validity of the knowledge that are created from research. The objective of this paper to is to explore two differing epistemologies by comparing and contrasting how they arrive at the “truth” of science and the production of knowledge. A historical perspective will be given in order to provide a framework for understanding how these differing epistemologies emerged. Scientific realism and phenomenology provide an interesting opportunity to address how knowledge and the creation of knowledge may be propagated in a variety of ways.
Scientific realism’s inception began as a reaction to the logical positivism movement that reigned in philosophical thought during the early twentieth century. Logical positivism purported that empirical exploration was only observable and truth could only be explained if it could be seen. However, scientific realism addressed the weaknesses inherent in logical positivism. It addressed the need for the cyclic nature between theory and observation and bridged the understanding of the time. One of the main assertions that scientific realism argues for is the concept that scientific knowledge is progressive in nature, and that it is able to predict phenomena successfully. Theory provided credibility to the objects that were unobservable and they in fact could exist. This increased the predictive ability of science. For example, prior to the invention of high power microscopes, a scientific realist would have argued that science must receive some sort of confirmation for the existence of small particles such as atoms or molecules from the exceptional successes derived from the theories that used them. Even though they weren’t visible, the evidence of their existence was enough to prove their existence.
Scientific realism incorporates three stances, or theses, which are known as the metaphysical, semantic and epistemic, according to Psillos (1999). The metaphysical stance argues that the world is definitive in its nature and that it is a “mind-independent natural-kind structure.” In other words, it suggests that the world exists independently of what humans are able to know, verify or recognize.
Semantic realism is the second stance of scientific realism and interprets the world as being occupied by unobservable objects and processes. Scientific theories are often accepted as they are with the understanding that they possess truth-conditioned descriptions about the world that they describe. Oftentimes, these descriptions may be true or false. Thus, conjectural...