Hasok ChangMay 10, 2023
Realism for Realistic People
A New Pragmatist Philosophy of Science
Cambridge University Press 2022
For a certain kind of standard realist, science aims at getting the absolute truth about the universe. For Hasok Chang, this view is unrealistic because we have no way of judging whether we are getting at that truth. In his new book, Realism for Realistic People: A New Pragmatist Philosophy of Science (Cambridge UP, 2022), Chang argues that we should understand scientific inquiry and its epistemic fruits in terms of what we do to acquire, justify, and use scientific knowledge. Drawing on Dewey and other pragmatists, plus a neo-Kantian view of phenomena, Chang – who is Hans Rausing Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge – affirms the basic realist commitment to a mind-independent world, though only in the sense that the world is “mind-framed” by our concepts, not “mind-controlled”. The aim of science, however, is operationally coherent active knowledge, not description of some inaccessible reality.
Carrie Figdor is professor of philosophy at the University of Iowa.