The History of Science as a Graveyard of Theories: A Philosophers’ Myth?

International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 30 (3):263-278 (2016)
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Abstract

According to the antirealist argument known as the pessimistic induction, the history of science is a graveyard of dead scientific theories and abandoned theoretical posits. Support for this pessimistic picture of the history of science usually comes from a few case histories, such as the demise of the phlogiston theory and the abandonment of caloric as the substance of heat. In this article, I wish to take a new approach to examining the ‘history of science as a graveyard of theories’ picture. Using JSTOR Data for Research and Springer Exemplar, I present new lines of evidence that are at odds with this pessimistic picture of the history of science. When rigorously tested against the historical record of science, I submit, the pessimistic picture of the history of science as a graveyard of dead theories and abandoned posits may turn out to be no more than a philosophers’ myth.

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Moti Mizrahi
Florida Institute of Technology

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