Monism disguised: scientific pluralism in Philip Kitcher's Modest Realism

Harron, Nathan A.
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University of Guelph

This thesis is an investigation of Philip Kitcher's Modest Realism, as it is presented in his book 'Science, Truth, and Democracy' (2001). His position argues that the aims of science are determined by socially and historically based contextual factors. Kitcher denies that such factors also influence the content of scientific knowledge, which I argue are similarly vulnerable. To defend my position I refer to the multiplicity of judgments that are required by the general structure of the scientific method. I avoid constructivism and maintain realism, however, through the adoption of scientific pluralism. This claim is defended using the case of gene-centrism. I further argue that although Kitcher purports to abandon scientific monism and adopt a form of pluralism, when compared to strong versions of pluralism, such as that presented by Helen Longino, Kitcher is revealed to be a monist in disguise.

Philip Kitcher, Modest Realism, scientific knowledge, scientific method, scientific pluralism, gene-centrism, scientific monism