The Pursuit of Knowledge and the Problem of the Unconceived Alternatives

Topoi 39 (4):881-892 (2020)
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In the process of scientific discovery, knowledge ampliation is pursued by means of non-deductive inferences. When ampliative reasoning is performed, probabilities cannot be assigned objectively. One of the reasons is that we face the problem of the unconceived alternatives: we are unable to explore the space of all the possible alternatives to a given hypothesis, because we do not know how this space is shaped. So, if we want to adequately account for the process of knowledge ampliation, we need to develop an account of the process of scientific discovery which is not exclusively based on probability calculus. We argue that the analytic view of the method of science advocated by Cellucci is interestingly suited to this goal, since it rests on the concept of plausibility. In this perspective, in order to account for how probabilities are in fact assigned in uncertain contexts and knowledge ampliation is really pursued, we have to take into account plausibility-based considerations.

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Fabio Sterpetti
Università degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza


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