A Historically Informed Modus Ponens Against Scientific Realism: Articulation, Critique, and Restoration

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There are two primary arguments against scientific realism, one pertaining to underdetermination, the other to the history of science. While these arguments are usually treated as altogether distinct, P. Kyle Stanford's ‘problem of unconceived alternatives’ constitutes one kind of synthesis: I propose that Stanford's argument is best understood as a broad modus ponens underdetermination argument, into which he has inserted a unique variant of the historical pessimistic induction. After articulating three criticisms against Stanford's argument and the evidence that he offers, I contend that, as it stands, Stanford's argument poses no threat to contemporary scientific realism. Nonetheless, upon identifying two useful insights present in Stanford's general strategy, I offer an alternative variant of the modus ponens underdetermination argument, one that, although historically informed by science, requires no inductive premises. I contend that this non-inductive but historically informed variant of the modus ponens clarifies and considerably strengthens the case against scientific realism
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Archival date: 2017-08-17
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