Some Difficulties for the Problem of Unconceived Alternatives

Philosophy of Science 78 (5):875-886 (2011)
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P. Kyle Stanford defends the problem of unconceived alternatives, which maintains that scientists are unlikely to conceive of all the scientifically plausible alternatives to the theories they accept. Stanford’s argument has been criticized on the grounds that the failure of individual scientists to conceive of relevant alternatives does not entail the failure of science as a corporate body to do so. I consider two replies to this criticism and find both lacking. In the process, I argue that Stanford does not provide evidence that there are likely scientifically plausible unconceived alternatives to scientific theories accepted now and in the future.

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Samuel Ruhmkorff
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (PhD)


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