How to be a promiscuous realist

How To Be A 'Promiscuous Realist'

James Ladyman

We take it for granted that the quantum fields and particles exist. Metaphysician James Ladyman provides reasons to be skeptical about scientific knowledge. Is the evidence too strong to be denied?

About the Course

Substance, essence, being - for centuries philosophers and scientists have tried to get to the heart of what constitutes the ‘things’ that make up the universe, from kitchen tables to subatomic particles. In this course, James Ladyman, Professor in the Philosophy of Science, gives his unique account of scientific realism, the belief that science addresses the ‘big questions’ of philosophy, and argues that there is no fundamental level of reality that describes the world.

In this course, you will learn:

  • The arguments for and against Scientific realism and anti-realism.
  • How our idea of science develops through radical theory change.
  • How we reconcile our ‘manifest’ reality to our scientific understanding.
  • What philosophy does that science cannot replace.
  • Why our understanding of reality is complicated by different ‘scales of being’.
  • Why there may be no ultimate reality.
  • Why relations between objects, not ‘substances’ might be what is most essential about the world.
  • How we might adopt a ‘promiscuous realism’.


As part of the course there are in-video quiz questions to consolidate your learning, suggested further readings to stimulate a deeper exploration of the topic, discussion boards to have your say and an end-of-course assessment set by Professor Ladyman

About the Instructor

  • James Ladyman

    James Ladyman is Professor of the Philosophy of Science at the University of Bristol and Honorary Visiting Professor at the University of York. He has worked extensively in scientific realism, constructive empiricism and structural realism. In 1998 he made the the distinction between epistemic and ontic forms of structural realism and has defended the latter since.


    Professor Ladyman was awarded the Philip Leverhulme Prize in Philosophy and Ethics in 2005 was awarded the American Library Association’s Outstanding Academic Text Award. He has been the editor of the The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science and Honorary Secretary of The British Society for the Philosophy of Science. He is the author of Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized, Understanding the Philosophy of Science and Arguing About Science.

Course Syllabus

  • Part One: Introducing Anti-Realism
    Must philosophy adhere to contemporary science? Does Metaphysics need objects and causation?
  • Part Two: Questioning the Atom
    Are atoms real? Ladyman illustrates why in science and philosophy, objects are no longer required.

Suggested Further Readings

A selection of further readings has been suggested by Professor Ladyman as part of this course.

Explore Further

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