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Instrumentalism, Realism, and Anti-Realism Philosophy

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Instrumentalism, Realism, and Anti-Realism Philosophy

In his arguments regarding anti-realism, one of the forms Bird addresses is Instrumentalism. This theory is provocative for how narrowly it regards science, but how complicated it becomes on close inspection. Instrumentalists perceive theories as the subject of philosophy rather than objective reality. They question how effectively theories describe and predict observable phenomenon rather than questioning the phenomena themselves (“Scientific Progress”).

This philosophy utilizes O-statements and T-statements as its primary units of discussion. O-statements are observable statements, they come directly from reality. T-statements are theoretical statements and are not truth-evaluable, according to instrumentalism (Bird 85).


Because there is no such thing as partially truth-evaluable, O-statements and T-statements have a sharp distinction. Because language is limited, however, the reality of this is not so simple. Bird claims that there is not a sharp distinction between O-statements and T-Statements because a term can serve as either depending on its context. He gives the example of black holes or genes which can operate as terms in a theory or as observable events, depending on the situation (Bird 85). After considering Bird’s disputes, it is difficult to regard Instrumentalism as a clearly defined theory.

The discussion of events or questions as scientific requires an understanding of how scientific issues are identified. Popper addresses this in a few ways that focus on the use and proof of theories and hypotheses. While corroboration of a theory is simply a test result that appears to support a theory, confirmation is the rigorous application of appropriate evidence that actually supports a theory (Popper).

Falsificationism is intended to develop theories with ever more explanatory capability. In Popper’s philosophy, a theory must be refutable and testable, if it is neither of these things it is not a theory, likewise if a test result disproves the theory, it is falsified and a new theory is required to take its place.

Duhem-Quine argue that hypotheses are not capable of being standalone scientific concepts and that testing them requires the assumption that other hypotheses are correct in order to have any kind of testing foundation. The primary difficulty with falsificationism, in light of the Duhem-Quine theory, is the nature of the hypothesis itself.

Popper imparts the hypothesis with too much standalone power in terms of identifying a question as scientific or non-scientific while Duhem-Quine posit that a hypothesis can only be tested and falsified as a group which challenges the individual focus of Popper (Lewthwaite). The truth likely lies closer to the Duhem-Quine thesis as Popper’s ideas require a more concise and cleanly delineated universe than we seem to live in.

Realism, and Anti-Realism

Realists, much like siths from Star Wars, are concerned primarily with absolute truths. They believe that there is a way that things actually are and that philosophy and science are humanity’s best efforts to reconcile what they know with what actually is (“The Realism vs.”). Realism is the only optimistic philosophy of science in that it believes there to be an achievable objective to science while other philosophies simply stumble about trying to make sense of a possibly unknowable universe.

It also argues from the perspective that evidence will lead to truth so even weak evidence is enough to build a working hypothesis from. Bird contends that this method does not encourage rigorous science and a more skeptical view of science would be better for the field in general (94). In terms of anti-realist discussion, realists central principle tends to get lost in the minute details of literal science, rather than the philosophy of science.

Works Cited

Bird, Alexander. Philosophy of science. London: UCL Press, 1998. Print.

Lewthwaite, Andrew. “A New Look at Falsification In Light Of the Duhem-Quine Thesis.” Ecclectica. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 June 2013. .

Popper, Karl R.. “Science as Falsification.” The Unofficial Stephen Jay Gould Archive. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 June 2013. .

“Scientific Progress.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. N.p., 10 May 2011. Web. 23 June 2013. .

“The Realism vs. Anti-Realism Debate.” Loyola University New Orleans. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 June 2013. .

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