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What's Really Going On: Pure Process Realism in Science

Penn, William (2021) What's Really Going On: Pure Process Realism in Science. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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I argue for a novel form of scientific realism, called “pure process realism,” that rejects orthodox ontologies of static objects and structures. The continuity between an experimenter and experimental systems requires that the processes of intervention and observation are the same ontic type as the observed and inferred features of experimental systems, on pain of ontological incoherence. Therefore, only processes can be inferred to exist within experiments from the epistemology of experiments alone. Additionally, every argument for the existence of a static object or structure within an experiment either fails or fails to rule out that the argument actually supports inferences to a more fundamental process. Firstly, this is because such arguments are either fallacious or inconclusive. Secondly, the history of scientific research, in chemistry and physics in particular, reveals that for each static object or structure posited in the history of science, research eventually redescribes it as a system of processes. For example, the history of the candle flame, the molecule, and the nucleus are explicit evidence of this conclusion, and these examples generalize. By induction, all static objects and structures we could posit are no more than systems of processes. Taken together, these arguments show that pure process realism is superior in scope, strength, and epistemic modesty to orthodox forms of realism in the epistemology, ontology, and history of science.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Penn, Williampennwilliam42@gmail.comwap19
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairNorton, Johnjdnorton@pitt.edujdnorton
Committee MemberShumener, Ericaehs20@pitt.eduehs20
Committee MemberWoodward, Jamesjfw@pitt.edujfw
Committee MemberSeibt,
Date: 8 October 2021
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 30 July 2021
Approval Date: 8 October 2021
Submission Date: 4 August 2021
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 243
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History and Philosophy of Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Scientific Metaphysics, Philosophy, Ontology, Philosophy of Physics,
Date Deposited: 08 Oct 2021 19:43
Last Modified: 14 Dec 2021 19:52


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