What is the relationship between:
a) the limits of our sense-perception,
and the combination of:
b) scientific investigation’s ability to represent that which we cannot sense and perceive directly as measurements that can be reduced to analogy to experience, and;
c) the ability of the tools of language to describe by analogy to experience,
d) that any process of aggregation into an abstract necessarily loses information, and;
e) that the human mind must reduce streams of temporal relations to ‘states’ in order to compare them. (a computational necessity of limited memory) and;
f) that our ability to comprehend by analogy to experience, multiple axis of causal relations is extremely limited. So limited that we had to develop the calculus, and models that make use of the calculus.
In purest terms, of course, there are limits because of necessary information loss from the process of categorization.
And it certainly appears that we can use science (categories and measurements and narratives that express causal relations that are allegories to experience) to understand almost everything we desire to = eventually.
But despite apparent successes, the question is whether those limits are meaningful in the context of being a human: converting extra sensual perceptions to sense perceptions.
Those limits can be meaningful in at least three dimensions:
a) the scope of the patterns that we can identify (which I suspect we can use machines for),
b) the period of those patterns, given that causality depends on arbitrary selection of periods of regularity,
c) the number of axis of causal relations that we can understand.
But since our problem is knowledge for the purpose of action in real time, not ‘knowledge’ as a static absolute, and it is our actions that are limited by our ignorance, and we would not be ‘human’ without those limits, the question always seems irrational.
If we understand that all thought is time-contingent based upon the knowledge at our disposal, then it’s simply illogical to even try to represent knowledge as static ‘truths’. The question itself is irrational.
If the standard is ‘enough perception that we can act to achieve our ends despite the limits of our minds’ that is very different from ‘we can understand the full set of causal relations by a process of representing measures of categories, and reducing them to expressions that are possible to articulate as a narrative.’
Since, we can test our theories, and science demands that we can both test (reproduce)( and determine the boundary conditions (falsify) our theories, using science and language to extend our sense perceptions, then we can test the correspondence of our understanding of the real world.
It certainly appears that we can be successful in reducing the unobservable complexity of the real world into symbolic and linguistic representations that are sufficient allegories to experience, that we can understand and at at any scale in which we an define a scheme of measurement (sensing). And there is no reason at present to believe that there is some limit to this, other than our ability to marshall the physical resources to perform tests, or because performing those tests would violate the terms of cooperation with other humans (morality).
And so, as Steven says above, theories are descriptive within the state of knowledge of the moment, if they correctly express the measurements and narratives of causal relations as we understand them at the moment, because they cannot exist without the context of the forms of measurement that we used to formulate them.
Those statements in fact, correspond with reality at some level of precision.
So the realist expectation is that we increasingly understand the complexity of reality, but may never fully achieve it. Although that imperfection may be meaningless for the purposes of action, as long as the allegory to experience is sufficient to produce the actions in question.
The generational problem affecting the discipline of philosophy is that the metaphysical assumption that we can introspectively solve these problems without the help of science is as absurd as thinking that we can solve these problems without language.
The discipline of Philosophy can help us construct analogies to experience so that we may consume those analogies and ‘understand’ them. But we cannot introspectively sense, perceive, and understand much outside of human scale, without the discipline of science.
Hence not only is CR a form of Realism, but it is an improvement on Realism because it does not assume that representations are static.