Instrumentalism Underdetermination Realism

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Understanding Underdetermination in conjunction with realism and instrumentalism

  The present essay is about the understanding of under determination thesis in conjunction with the realism and instrumentalism. As we know that realism and instrumentalism are two opposite views in philosophy of science, so by explaining the two it would be much easier to grasp the concept of under determination thesis, which is one of complex doctrine. The intended audiences of this essay are science student’s and people who are interested to know about the philosophical issues in science. I divide the essay into four of parts. The first part explains the realism and instrumentalism concepts, second part explains the under determination thesis in detail and then the third part will state the views of different philosophers about three schools of thoughts. The fourth and the final part conclude the whole argumentation


The word realism in the dictionary means the tendency to view or represent things as they really are. [dic]. In philosophy of science it can be defined as “the philosophical doctrine that abstract concepts exist independent of their names”. It can be explained as an approach in philosophy that considers objects as they are in the universe as real things and their characteristics as a secondary thing. The advocate of realism are called realist and it is important to differentiate the realist’s. A person can be realist about the different kinds of things i.e. mountains, physical objects, numbers, universe etc. but in the case of a philosopher, it is required to specify that for what object/thing the philosopher is realist [book]. An American philosopher name Hilary Putnam stated that “A realist with respect to a given theory holds the following: What makes them true or false is something external that is to say, it is not in general our sense data, actual or potential, or the structure of our minds, or our language, etc. Furthermore he says that the positive argument for realism is that it is the only “philosophy that does not make the success of science a miracle”. [Book]. Generally, in science established scientific theories are treated as a true fact, but according to realist these theories would be treated as a successful explanation of the whole scientific process or its relation to an object, and not as a whole truth. [Book] An example is that sun, mountains, building etc. exists in this world, but the attributes like length, width, colour etc. are either dependent or independent of the environment. For example the sun is spherical in shape, so it is independent from any material thing of this universe. But in case of a building, its shape and size, all depend upon the person who designed or built it. So it can be said that reality is related to mind and environment. In general, Realism is supposed to be a term that relates to number of subjects i.e. ethics, aesthetics, causation, modality, science, mathematics, semantics etc. When we talk about the realism in the context of science then the intention is to elaborate the scientific realism which has a number of dimensions i.e.

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