Scientific realism is a central, long-standing, and hotly debated topic in philosophy of science. Debates about scientific realism concern the very nature and extent of scientific knowledge and progress. Scientific realists defend a positive epistemic attitude towards our best theories and models regarding how they represent the world that is unobservable to our naked senses. Various realist theses are under sceptical fire from scientific antirealists, e.g. empiricists and instrumentalists. The different dimensions of the ensuing debate centrally connect to numerous other topics in philosophy of science and beyond.

The Routledge Handbook of Scientific Realism is an outstanding reference source – the first collection of its kind – to the key issues, positions, and arguments in this important topic. Its thirty-four chapters, written by a team of international experts, are divided into five parts:

  • Historical development of the realist stance
  • Classic debate: core issues and positions
  • Perspectives on contemporary debates
  • The realism debate in disciplinary context
  • Broader reflections

In these sections, the core issues and debates presented, analysed, and set into broader historical and disciplinary contexts. The central issues covered include motivations and arguments for realism; challenges to realism from underdetermination and history of science; different variants of realism; the connection of realism to relativism and perspectivism; and the relationship between realism, metaphysics, and epistemology.

The Routledge Handbook of Scientific Realism is essential reading for students and researchers in philosophy of science. It will also be very useful for anyone interested in the nature and extent of scientific knowledge.

chapter |4 pages


Scientific realism in the 21st century

part I|30 pages

Historical development of the realist stance

part II|114 pages

Classic debate

chapter 4|12 pages

Historical Challenges to Realism

chapter 5|12 pages


chapter 6|12 pages

Kuhn, Relativism and Realism

chapter 7|12 pages


chapter 8|12 pages


chapter 10|13 pages

Entity Realism

part III|127 pages

Perspectives on contemporary debates

chapter 13|12 pages


chapter 15|13 pages

Scientific Progress

chapter 19|13 pages

Modeling and Realism

Strange bedfellows?

chapter 20|11 pages

Success and Scientific Realism

Considerations from the philosophy of simulation

part IV|103 pages

The realism debate in disciplinary context

part V|66 pages

Broader reflections

chapter 30|11 pages

Realism and Theories of Truth

chapter 31|13 pages

Realism and Metaphysics

chapter 32|12 pages

Mathematical Realism and Naturalism