Philosophy of Science

Massimi, M. (2018) Perspectival Modeling. Philosophy of Science, 85(3), 335-359

The goal of this article is to address the problem of inconsistent models, and the challenge it poses for perspectivism. I analyse the argument, draw attention to some hidden premises behind it, and deflate them. Then I introduce the notion of perspectival models as a distinctive class of modeling practices, whose primary function is exploratory. I illustrate perspectival modeling with two examples taken from contemporary high-energy physics at LHC, CERN, which are designed to show how a plurality of seemingly incompatible models (suitably understood) is methodologically crucial to advance the realist quest in cutting-edge areas of scientific inquiry.

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Massimi, M. (2017) Laws of nature, natural properties, and the robustly best system, The Monist, 100(3), 406-421 

This paper addresses a famous objection against David Lewis’ Best System Analysis (BSA) of laws of nature. The objection—anticipated and discussed by Lewis (1994)—focuses on the standards of simplicity and strength being (in part) a matter of psychology. Lewis’ answer to the objection relies on his metaphysics of natural properties and its ability to single out the robustly best system, a system that is expected to come out far ahead of its rivals under any standard of simplicity and strength. The main task of this paper is to argue that Lewis’ reply to the objection in terms of nature being kind to us does not succeed, if nature’s kindness is understood in terms of the naturalness of the properties composing the Humean mosaic. For epistemic access to natural properties is downstream to any previous identification of the best system. A possible Lewisian rejoinder in terms of cross-world Humean mosaic of natural properties is considered and rebutted. The paper concludes by suggesting that Lewis could instead avail himself of a better answer to the objection, if the standards of simplicity and strength were re- interpreted along perspectivalist lines.

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Massimi, M. (2016) Four Kinds of Perspectival Truth, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.

In this paper, I assess recent claims in philosophy of science about scientific perspectivism being compatible with realism. I clarify the rationale for scientific perspectivism and the problems and challenges that perspectivism faces in delivering a form of realism. In particular, I concentrate my attention on truth, and on ways in which truth can be understood in perspectival terms. I offer a cost -benefit analysis of each of them and defend a version that in my view is most promising in living up to realist expectations.
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Massimi, M. (2016) Three tales of scientific success, Philosophy of Science,  83(5), 757-767 

Success-to-truth inferences have been the realist stronghold for long time. Scientific success is the parameter by which realists claim to discern approximately true theories from false ones. But scientific success needs be probed a bit deeper. In this paper, I tell three tales of scientific success, by considering in turn success from nowhere, success from here now, and success from within. I argue for a suitable version of success from within that can do justice to the historically situated nature of our scientific knowledge. The outcome is a new way of thinking about success-to-truth inferences along perspectivalist lines.

[download Open Access PDF] doi: 10.1086/687861

HiResMassimi, M. (forthcoming) Perspectivism, in J. Saatsi (ed) The Routledge Handbook of Scientific Realism.

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Massimi, M. (2016) Bringing Real Realism back home: a perspectival slant. In J. Pfeifer and M. Couch (Eds.) The Philosophy of Philip Kitcher (pp.98-120). Oxford: OUP

In this essay, I suggest bringing real realism closer home, namely back to its Kantian roots. The very same roots that make real realism a ‘homely’ kind of realism, against any Grand Metaphysical Conclusions about the world, its causal necessities, and natural kinds. I suggest reinterpreting a key aspect of real realism—i.e., the notion of success at stake in ‘working posits’—along more ‘homely’ lines, lines that acknowledge historical continuity, conceptual nuances and our role as epistemic agents in assessing success and inferring truth. The result is a form of perspectival realism—to adopt Ron Giere’s terminology— which is, however, already at a distance from what Giere himself intends by this term. Hence, my very own (loosely Kantian-inspired) perspectivalist slant to real realism.

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Massimi, M. (2018) A Perspectivalist Better Best System Account of Lawhood. In L. Patton and W. Ott (Eds.) Laws of Nature. Oxford: OUP

On David Lewis’s influential view, modal facts supervene on the mosaic of non-modal facts about sparse natural properties. I defend a Lewisian account of laws that abandons this supervenience claim in order to avoid the objections of subjectivity and lack of necessity that bedeviled Lewis’s original view. On my view, it is not the Humean mosaic of sparse natural properties that ultimately grounds laws of nature. Instead, it is the (always renegotiable) balance between our ever changing and perspectival standards of simplicity and strength that grounds laws of nature. My view reveals some unexpected resources available to a Humean account of lawhood, at the price of dispensing with Humean supervenience.

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