Do Sciences Tell the Truth?

Anjan Chakravartty, Ph. D.

Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology,
and Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto

Venue: Bhaktivedanta Institute, Juhu Road, Juhu, Mumbai
April 30, 2004


It is widely believed that our best scientific theories describe the true, underlying nature of the world. A careful consideration of the history of science, however, casts doubt on this common belief. Our past is full of theories that we once thought were true, but now think are mistaken. Is it not naïve to believe that today's theories are correct, since over time we can expect that they too will develop and change, perhaps substantially? In this talk, Dr. Anjan Chakravartty will consider the two most promising proposals for responding to this challenge. One claims that although we should remain skeptical about theories in general, we can at least be confident that they correctly tell us about what kinds of things exist in nature (electrons, elements, genes, etc.). The other proposal, motivated primarily by theories in physics, and especially quantum theory, claims that sciences do not give us a knowledge of things, but rather tell us about the structure of the world. Dr. Chakravartty argues that neither of these approaches succeeds in defending the idea that sciences tell the truth. But there is also good news: these proposals do offer clues pointing in the right direction. The speaker will attempt to follow these clues, and by doing so, explain the sense in which sciences really do tell the truth.

About the Speaker

Dr. Anjan Chakravartty is Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, and is appointed to the graduate Faculty, Department of Philosophy. After doing his BSc (Hons.) in Biophysics and MA in Philosophy from the University of Toronto, he went on to complete an M.Phil in History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge. He completed his PhD in History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge in 2001.

Dr. Chakravartty’s research focuses on central issues in the philosophy of science, and in particular the question of scientific realism. He is interested in developing an appropriate metaphysics to underpin a moderate, defensible form of realism. As part of this general project, he is investigating the connections between entity realism, structural realism, and empiricism, the nature of causation, laws of nature, and natural kinds. Plans for future work involve the nature and constitution of scientific objects, modeling, and approximate truth.

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