The question we will address in this course is: do we add anything meaningful to our statements about the world by saying that the world or the objects we are talking about really exist – in some sense that remains to be specified? This “­­realism debate” constitutes a crucial and classical debate in philosophy. We may distinguish two forms of the debate that will be of interest for us in this course. The first version, the metaphysical realism debate, addresses the question as to whether it makes sense to posit a world independent from the human perspective. The second version, the scientific realism debate, asks whether scientific objects refer in a similar way as the objects encountered in everyday life. Our course will have a focus on the developments in the scientific realism debate since the mid-20th century. But it will be important to have a much wider historical perspective on the issue. And it will be of particular interest to look at the relation, the connections and the differences, between the two forms of realism debate.

If you plan to attend this course, send an email to Richard Dawid ( with name, personnummer and SUKAT user name. Richard can then add you to the MONDO-page for the course.

Teacher: Richard Dawid
Course dates: September 12 – October 24
Time and location: See schedule for Theoretical Philosophy - Magister course
Examination: Home assignment. Grades will be based on one assignment of about 5000 words.

Literature list:

The texts listed first under each unit will be read and discussed in the course, the ones in brackets are supplementary background reading for those interested. All texts will be put on Mondo.

Double Unit 1

George Berkeley: Principles of Human Knowledge, 1710 (Points 1-33)

Rudolf Carnap: Pseudoproblems of Philosophy, 1928


Hilary Putnam: Why there isn’t a readymade World, 1981

W.V Quine: Whither Physical Objects?, 1976

[Hilary Putnam: Brain in a Vat, 1981]

[W.V. Quine: Epistemology Naturalized, 1969]


Alan Musgrave: Realism vs Constructive Empiricism, 1984

[Richard Boyd: Scientific Realism and Naturalistic Epistemology, 1981]


Larry Laudan: A Confutation of Convergent Realism, 1984

Bas van Fraassen: The Scientific Image, 1980 (Chapter II)

 [Collin Howson: Hume’s Problem, 2000. Chapter 3: Realism and the No Miracles Argument]

[Richard Dawid and Stephan Hartmann: NMA without the Base Rate Fallacy, 2017]


Ian Hacking: Representing and Intervening, 1983 (Chapter 8)

John Worrall: The Best of Both Worlds, 1989

James Ladyman: What is Structural Realism?, 1998

[Arthur Fine: The Shaky Game, 1986 (Chapter 7)]


Kyle Stanford: Refusing the Devil’s Bargain, 2001

Richard Dawid: String Theory and the Scientific Method, 2013 (Chapter 7)

[Chakravartty: A Metaphysics for Scientific Realism, 2007 (Chapter 2)]


Stathis Psillos: Scientific Realism and the Pessimistic Induction, 1996.

Peter Vickers: A Confrontation of Convergent Realism 2013.