Background theories and total science

Philosophy of Science 72 (5):1064-1075 (2005)
Download Edit this record How to cite View on PhilPapers
Background theories in science are used both to prove and to disprove that theory choice is underdetermined by data. The alleged proof appeals to the fact that experiments to decide between theories typically require auxiliary assumptions from other theories. If this generates a kind of underdetermination, it shows that standards of scientific inference are fallible and must be appropriately contextualized. The alleged disproof appeals to the possibility of suitable background theories to show that no theory choice can be timelessly or noncontextually underdetermined: Foreground theories might be distinguished against different backgrounds. Philosophers have often replied to such a disproof by focussing their attention not on theories but on Total Sciences. If empirically equivalent Total Sciences were at stake, then there would be no background against which they could be differentiated. I offer several reasons to think that Total Science is a philosophers' fiction. No respectable underdetermination can be based on it.
No keywords specified (fix it)
Reprint years
PhilPapers/Archive ID
Revision history
Archival date: 2018-06-06
View upload history
References found in this work BETA
Two Dogmas of Empiricism.Quine, Willard V. O.
.Butterfield, Jeremy & Earman, John

View all 25 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Added to PP index

Total views
194 ( #21,524 of 48,869 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
13 ( #39,816 of 48,869 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks to external links.