" We could claim that even given his views about interpretation and ontology, his form of structuralism can be resisted. [ … ] Let us distinguish two construals of claims made about the structuralist view of science.
(i) There are claims and decisions within our own "home language" and conceptual scheme, concerning how we understand scientific activity and the place we give to science within life as a whole.
(ii) There are descriptions and interpretations of our language and practice, given by a theorist writing from within another home language.
The position described in (ii) could in fact be taken by one of our own community, who assumes this outsider's position for some theoretical reason. Standpoint (ii) is distinguished by the attitude taken to our home language; claims are made about it rather than within it. Structuralism is a real option that can be entertained in discussions within context (i). When theorizing about what we take science to be and what we would like it to do, we can either accept or reject the structuralist view. But Quine's indeterminacy arguments, whether they are good or bad in general, do not motivate any particular choices within context (i). In particular, they do not motivate a structuralist view within context (i). I am not in fact sure whether Quine sees his indeterminacy arguments as motivating a "home language" choice of structuralism. But he has said things which seem to suggest this. For example, after one passage expressing the view that theories only require that the world be so structured as to assure certain patterns of stimulations, he says: "More concrete demands are empty" (1981 p. 22). This seems to mean that we should not, within the home language, make the demand that theories go beyond the task of prediction. But it is not certain that this is what he means, and my present point is just that the arguments in fact do not have the force to motivate a home language choice.
The arguments do not have this force because if the semantic indeterminacies are real, there is almost nothing we can do in response to them that will make our epistemic lot better or worse. Whether our decision within the home language is for an extreme realism or for an austere structuralist empiricism, the indeterminacies will exist either way and we do not ameliorate the problem by opting for a structuralist view. This is because the indeterminacies "cut both ways." Suppose you are a realist, and Quine appears and presents his indeterminacy arguments to you. He notes that when you commit yourself to the existence of the Eiffel Tower, and use it in your theories, an interpreter could fairly take you to be talking about some abstract mathematical object instead. You might feel chastened by this, and inclined to retract your strong realist view of what your theorizing seeks to do. So you switch to an austere structuralism. You now explicitly take the Eiffel Tower to be no more than a node within the structure of your theory, not a physical object. You chorus, with Quine: "my theory serves to predict experience. When I make a claim within it, all I am saying is that the world is somehow so structured as to assure the sequences of stimulations that I expect." (See Davidson 1990 for the quote that I paraphrase here.) You say this with Quine, but it has not in any way improved your epistemic situation. The interpreter can come along, just as before, and interpret your talk of the Eiffel Tower-node as in fact being about the physical Eiffel Tower. Quine's indeterminacies do not pose any special problem for the person who opts for realism within their home language. They do not give a person who adopts a structuralist view within their home language reason to believe that they have avoided a problem or taken an epistemically responsible choice. They are just as well of, or as badly off, as an extreme realist.
Choices do have to be made within the home language about what science aims at and what the proper relation between theory and experience is. Choices about the status of causation and its role in explanation are examples. If Quine is right there will be some slack in the semantic facts about our scientific activity. This will apply whichever choice we make; making one choice or another is not motivated by Quine's semantic claims.
Ontological relativity, if it is real, is a two-edged sword.
In sum then, I reject D as an unjustified dogma of empiricists (and of some others). Quine's arguments relating to the indeterminacy of reference do not justify structuralism as a home-language choice, or as a view about constraints that we must live under with respect to moves we make in our home language theorizing. If the indeterminacy arguments are good, they frustrate the structuralist scientist as much as the realist--although this "frustration" is one which only appears from the vantage point of an observer. "