Physicists' Attitudes toward Physical Reality and the Emergence of Structural Realism in the Philosophy of Science
Article Type:
Research/Original Article (دارای رتبه معتبر)

Structural realism is one of the influential views in the contemporary philosophy of science that has been welcomed by many realist philosophers of science. John Worrall systematically introduced this view, and others have developed it. The aim of this study is the investigation the relationship between the formation of the structural realism view and the diverse views of physicists regarding how reality is represented in scientific theories. In addition, it addresses the question of how John Worrall's structuralism developed from physicists' views on physical reality and the representation of reality in scientific theories.

Method of Study:

 The method of this article is conceptual analysis. In this article, we first deal with some cases of the history of physics and quote the opinions of some famous physicists about the realism or antirealism of scientific theories. In examining their comments, we will show how the two different approaches to scientific theories have been and how they have moved together .


It can be considered that, contrary to the ordinary view, which in many cases is assumed that philosophical theories emerge from controversy among philosophers, in this case, it can be seen that John Worrall's theory of structural realism is rooted in philosophical controversies among physicists. Through the comments of Henri Poincaré, John Worrall reached a solid and well-considered view of the realism of scientific theories, with which one can even answer some of the problems expressed in antirealism about scientific theories, especially the argument that Larry Laudan has made so clear and orderly, and even beyond that, we can absorb some antirealistic views in structuralism. The two famous arguments that he tries to incorporate into his theory are the «No-miracle argument» and «Pessimistic meta-induction», which we will partially address in this article. He chooses the path between the two views to introduce his structuralist view which, in his opinion, is well compatible with both of these arguments, and as a result, he wants to show that it is possible to remain realistic about scientific theories, in this sense that we can still maintain the claim that scientific theories inform about reality and show us the reality of the world, but in terms of structure. In summary, we will reach the following conclusions from the review of the opinions of some well-known physicists in the history of physics, as well as a more detailed review of the opinions of Henri Poincaré and John Worrall.


Contrary to the common view, which is considered in many cases, philosophical theories arise from disputes among philosophers, John Worrall's theory of structural realism is rooted in philosophical disputes among physicists; in the sense that the emergence of structural realism arose from a historical context, and had roots in the thoughts of some physicists, including Maxwell, Hertz, Boltzmann. The thoughts of these prominent physicists progressed step by step and led to the emergence of an implicit attitude about structuralism, which was more clearly expressed in Henri Poincaré, and then John Worrall, inspired by these ideas and especially influenced by the view Poincaré introduced his structural realism more coherently and showed that the continuity that we need in the changes and instability of scientific theories to achieve scientific realism must be found at the level of structures. By introducing structural realism, he reconciled two important arguments that did not seem to be easily compatible with each other, emphasizing continuity in the structure of scientific theories rather than continuity in content, and showed that there is continuity in the great body of science.

فصلنامه ذهن, Volume:23 Issue: 4, 2023
121 to 153  
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