Reconstructing the upward path to structural realism


EUROPEAN JOURNAL FOR PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE, vol.7, no.3, pp.393-409, 2017 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 7 Issue: 3
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s13194-016-0167-8
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.393-409
  • Keywords: Structural realism, Nemwan's objection, Theory of perception, Sparse coding, Predictive coding, Inference to the best explanation, Scientific realism, CURIES PRINCIPLE, VISUAL-CORTEX, STATISTICS, PHYSICS, MODELS, BRAIN, TIME, SELF
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: No


In his Analysis of Matter, Russell advocated an epistemic form of Epistemic Structural Realism (ESR) which held that our knowledge of the external world is structural. This approach has been criticised by M.H.A. Newman (Mind, (146), 137-148, 1928) and Stathis Psillos (Philosophy of Science, 68(S3), S13-S24, 2001). The paper aims to reconstruct Russell's version of ESR, and defend its experimental and philosophical plausibility. The basic assumption is that without getting a viable experimental handle on the linkage between the structure of perceptions and causal structure of the stimuli, the so called upward path to SR couldn't be defended conclusively. In this vein, the paper explores the resources of the recent experimental theories of perception (these include the theory of brain's difference-based coding, and the theory of prediction error minimization). These help establishing a structuralist account of the perception, and provide an account for the causal linkage between the structure of perceptions and the structure of the stimuli. I argue that it is possible to settle for objectivity of this linkage according to the criteria of comprehensiveness, simplicity, and above all rationality, in a way that meets the standards of the scientific realists.