Perspectival Realism
Perspectival Realism
Perspectival Realism



Massimi, M. (forthcoming) A philosopher’s look at DES. Reflections on the use of Bayes factor in cosmology, in J. Frieman and O. Lahav (Eds.). The Dark Energy Survey (World Scientific)

In this paper, I look at the DES Year 1 results and in particular I consider the use of the Bayes factor along the Jeffreys scale in DES model selection. I draw attention to some of the advantages but also to some epistemic limits arising from the use of the Bayes factor.

Massimi, M. (2018) Points of View. Kant on perspectival knowledge. Synthese

The aim of this paper is to cast new light on an important and often overlooked notion of perspectival knowledge arising from Kant. In addition to a traditional notion of perspectival knowledge as “knowledge from a vantage point” (perspectival knowledge1), a second novel notion — “knowledge towards a vantage point” (perspectival knowledge2) —is here introduced. The origin and rationale of perspectival knowledge2 are traced back to Kant’s so-called transcendental illusion (and some of its pre-Critical sources). The legacy of the Kantian notion of perspectival knowledge2 for contemporary discussions on disagreement and the role of metaphysics in scientific knowledge is discussed.

Download Open Access PDF   doi: 10.1007/s11229-018-1876-7

Massimi, M. (2018) Three problems about multi-scale modelling in cosmology. Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics.

The debate in cosmology concerning LambdaCDM and MOND depends crucially on their respective ability of modelling across scales, and dealing with some of the specific problems that arise along the way. The main upshot of this article is to present three main problems facing multi-scale modelling in contemporary cosmology. The LambdaCDM model, which is the standard and by far most successful current cosmological model, faces what I call the ‘downscaling problem’ when it comes to explain some recalcitrant evidence at the scale of individual galaxies, such as the mass-discrepancy acceleration relation (MDAR) and the baryonic Tully-Fisher relation (BTF). While the fast growing
development of computer simulations has addressed these problems, nagging worries remain about some of
the epistemic limits of these computer simulations in retrieving (as opposed to explaining) the data. The so-called’upscaling problem’ affects MOND and its ability not just to explain but even simply retrieve large-scale structure and galaxy clusters. Recent attempts at extending MOND (EMOND) have had a limited empirical success, and are still far from providing a consistent explanation for possible formation mechanisms at the large-scale structure. Finally, the ‘in between’ scales problem affects proposals designed to achieve the best of both worlds at the meso-scale. This is a fascinating area from a physical and a philosophical point of view, where the main challenge is the ability to have
genuine predictive novelty.

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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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McCoy, C.D. (2018) Epistemic Justification and Methodological Luck in Inflationary Cosmology. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

I present a recent historical case from cosmology — the story of inflationary cosmology — and on its basis argue that solving explanatory problems is a reliable method for making progress in science. In particular, I claim that the success of inflationary theory at solving its predecessor’s explanatory problems justified the theory epistemically, even in advance of the development of novel predictions from the theory and the later confirmation of those predictions.

Download Open Access PDF   doi: 10.1093/bjps/axy014

Massimi, M. (2017) What is this thing called ‘scientific knowledge?’ Kant on imaginary standpoints and the regulative role of reason, Kant Yearbook, 9(1), 63-84 

In this essay I analyse Kant’s view on the regulative role of reason, and in particular what he describes as the ‘indispensably necessary’ role of ideas qua foci imaginari in the Appendix. I review two influential readings of what has become known as the ‘transcendental illusion’ and I offer a novel reading that builds on some of the insights of these earlier readings. I argue that ideas of reason act as imaginary standpoints, which are indispensably necessary for scientific knowledge by making inter-conversational agreement possible. Thus, I characterise scientific knowledge as a distinctive kind of perspectival knowledge. This novel reading can illuminate the role of reason in complementing the faculty of understanding and sheds light on the apparent dichotomy between the first and the second part of the Appendix.More to the point, this novel reading takes us right to the heart of what knowledge is, according to Kant, and how it differs from bogus knowledge and opinion.

Download Open Access PDF doi: 10.1515/kantyb-2017-0004

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.

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.

Download Open Access PDF doi: 10.1093/monist/onx018

McCoy, C.D. and Massimi, M. (2017) Simplified Models: a New Perspective on Models as Mediators. European Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 8(1), 99-123 

We introduce a novel point of view on the “models as mediators” frame- work in order to emphasize certain important epistemological questions about models in science which have so far been little investigated. To illustrate how this perspective can help answer these kinds of questions, we explore the use of simplified models in high energy physics research beyond the Standard Model. We show in detail how the construction of simplified models is grounded in the need to mitigate pressing epistemic problems concerning the uncertainty inherent in the present theoretical and experimental contexts.

 doi: 10.1007/s13194-017-0178-0

McCoy, C.D. (2017) The implementation, interpretation and justification of likelihoods in cosmology. Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, 62, 19-35

I discuss the formal implementation, interpretation, and justification of likelihood attributions in cosmology. I show that likelihood arguments in cosmology suffer from significant conceptual and formal problems that undermine their applicability in this context.

Download Open Access PDF doi: 10.1016/j.shpsb.2017.05.002

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Massimi, M. (2016) Four Kinds of Perspectival Truth, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 96(2), 342-359

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.
Download Open Access PDF doi: 10.1111/phpr.12300


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



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. [Download Open Access PDF]


SSPL_LavoisierLab_10327063_HighResMassimi, M. (2017) Philosophy and the Chemical Revolution after Kant. In K. Ameriks (Ed.) The Cambridge Companion to German Idealism (2nd ed). (pp. 182-204) Cambridge: CUP

This chapter addresses some key ideas of Schelling’s philosophy of nature with two main goals in mind. First, it clarifies how in Schelling’s hands, some key aspects of Kant’s philosophy of nature were transformed into a radically new philosophy of nature. Second, the chapter sheds light on some under appreciated aspects of Schelling’s philosophy of nature vis-à-vis the cultural milieu of Jena at the turn of the nineteenth century, in particular the debate surrounding the Chemical Revolution and the role of Johann Ritter in it.

doi: 10.1017/9781316556511.011

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