SOPhiA 2018

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Scientific Theories and their Alternatives
(Philosophy of Science, English)

The notion of (empirical) success in science providing a warrant for the belief in the -- at least approximate -- truth of our scientific theories is intuitively pleasing. As famously argued by Putnam, this is the only position that can explain this very success without having to resort to miracles. Surely, if a scientific theory is entirely false but still displays predictive success, this has to be a miracle? Looking at the history of science, however, we see once successful theories that were later refuted. Moreover, it seems that the history of science reveals a recurring problem -- once successful theories were always superseded by substantially different and better alternative theories. Some realists argued that the paradigm shifts of the past provide justification for the belief in current theories, since eliminative inference rules out alternatives, one by one, until only one or few remain. With each elimination, we are closer to the truth. Often this strategy has been rejected, since philosophers of the 20th century assumed that there are always unlimited alternatives to a given theory. Eliminating one or even more theories does not make a difference. But where lies the burden of proof -- are there such alternatives or not? Starting from vast historical observations, Stanford (2006) formulated the problem of unconceived alternatives, an argument that effectively shifts the burden of proof onto the realist via a historical induction. This article will examine the validity and potential problems of his argument, before taking up a closer examination of the possibility of eliminative inference in regards to our scientific theories.

Chair: Albert Anglberger
Time: 12:00-12:30, 14 September 2018 (Friday)
Location: SR 1.005
Remark: CHANGE. The talk is cancelled!

Aljosa Toplak 
(University of Ljubljana, Slovenia)

Aljoa Toplak is a student of philosophy at the University of Ljubljana. His main fields of interest are philosophy of science and epistemology. He shows excellent pedagogical skills, since he deems the art of making complex ideas accessible and interesting to wider audiences important. He is currently working on a paper about the relationships between the no-miracles argument, scientific realism and the pessimistic meta-induction in the history of philosophy of science.

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