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  1. Pablo Acuña & Dennis Dieks (2014). Another Look at Empirical Equivalence and Underdetermination of Theory Choice. European Journal for Philosophy of Science 4 (2):153-180.
    In 1991 Larry Laudan and Jarret Leplin proposed a solution for the problem of empirical equivalence and the empirical underdetermination that is often thought to result from it. In this paper we argue that, even though Laudan and Leplin’s reasoning is essentially correct, their solution should be accurately assessed in order to appreciate its nature and scope. Indeed, Laudan and Leplin’s analysis does not succeed in completely removing the problem or, as they put it, in refuting the thesis of underdetermination (...)
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  2. Matthias Adam (2004). Why Worry About Theory-Dependence? Circularity, Minimal Empiricality and Reliability. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 18 (2 & 3):117 – 132.
    It is a widely shared view among philosophers of science that the theory-dependence (or theory-ladenness) of observations is worrying, because it can bias empirical tests in favour of the tested theories. These doubts are taken to be dispelled if an observation is influenced by a theory independent of the tested theory and thus circularity is avoided, while (partially) circular tests are taken to require special attention. Contrary to this consensus, it is argued that the epistemic value of theory-dependent tests has (...)
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  3. Prasanta S. Bandyopadhyay, John G. Bennett & Megan D. Higgs (2015). How to Undermine Underdetermination? Foundations of Science 20 (2):107-127.
    The underdetermination thesis poses a threat to rational choice of scientific theories. We discuss two arguments for the thesis. One draws its strength from deductivism together with the existence thesis, and the other is defended on the basis of the failure of a reliable inductive method. We adopt a partially subjective/objective pragmatic Bayesian epistemology of science framework, and reject both arguments for the thesis. Thus, in science we are able to reinstate rational choice called into question by the underdetermination thesis.
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  4. Darrin W. Belousek (2005). Underdetermination, Realism, and Theory Appraisal: An Epistemological Reflection on Quantum Mechanics. [REVIEW] Foundations of Physics 35 (4):669-695.
    This paper examines the epistemological significance of the present situation of underdetermination in quantum mechanics. After analyzing this underdetermination at three levels---formal, ontological, and methodological---the paper considers implications for a number of variants of the thesis of scientific realism in fundamental physics and reassesses Lakatos‘ characterization of progress in physical theory in light of the present situation. Next, this paper considers the implications of underdetermination for Weinberg’s ‘‘dream of a final theory.’’ Finally, the paper concludes by suggesting how one might (...)
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  5. Richard N. Boyd (1973). Realism, Underdetermination, and a Causal Theory of Evidence. Noûs 7 (1):1-12.
  6. Matthew J. Brown (2014). Values in Science Beyond Underdetermination and Inductive Risk. Philosophy of Science 80 (5):829-839.
    Proponents of the value ladenness of science rely primarily on arguments from underdetermination or inductive risk, which share the premise that we should only consider values where the evidence runs out or leaves uncertainty; they adopt a criterion of lexical priority of evidence over values. The motivation behind lexical priority is to avoid reaching conclusions on the basis of wishful thinking rather than good evidence. This is a real concern, however, that giving lexical priority to evidential considerations over values is (...)
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  7. Grzegorz Bugajak (2009). Philosophy of Nature, Realism, and the Postulated Ontology of Scientific Theories. In Adam Świeżyński (ed.), Philosophy of Nature Today, Wydawnictwo UKSW, Warszawa. 59–80.
    The first part of the paper is a metatheoretical consideration of such philosophy of nature which allows for using scientific results in philosophical analyses. An epistemological 'judgment' of those results becomes a preliminary task of this discipline: this involves taking a position in the controversy between realistic and antirealistic accounts of science. It is shown that a philosopher of nature has to be a realist, if his task to build true ontology of reality is to be achieved. At the same (...)
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  8. Jacob Busch (2009). Underdetermination and Rational Choice of Theories. Philosophia 37 (1):55-65.
    The underdetermination of theory by data argument (UD) is traditionally construed as an argument that tells us that we ought to favour an anti-realist position over a realist position. I argue that when UD is constructed as an argument saying that theory choice is to proceed between theories that are empirically equivalent and adequate to the phenomena up until now, the argument will not favour constructive empiricism over realism. A constructive empiricist cannot account for why scientists are reasonable in expecting (...)
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  9. Jacob Busch (2008). No New Miracles, Same Old Tricks. Theoria 74 (2):102-114.
    Abstract: Laudan (1984) distinguishes between two senses of success for scientific theories: (i) that a particular theory is successful, and (ii) that the methods for picking out approximately true theories are successful. These two senses of success are reflected in two different ways that the no miracles argument for scientific realism (NMA) may be set out. First, I set out a (traditional) version of NMA that considers the success of particular theories. I then consider a more recent formulation of NMA (...)
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  10. Anjan Chakravartty (2008). What You Don't Know Can't Hurt You: Realism and the Unconceived. [REVIEW] Philosophical Studies 137 (1):149 - 158.
    Two of the most potent challenges faced by scientific realism are the underdetermination of theories by data, and the pessimistic induction based on theories previously held to be true, but subsequently acknowledged as false. Recently, Stanford (2006, Exceeding our grasp: Science, history, and the problem of unconceived alternatives. Oxford: Oxford University Press) has formulated what he calls the problem of unconceived alternatives: a version of the underdetermination thesis combined with a historical argument of the same form as the pessimistic induction. (...)
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  11. Richard Dawid, Scientific Prediction and the Underdetermination of Scientific Theory Building.
    According to the no miracles argument, scientific realism provides the only satisfactory explanation of the predictive success of science. It is argued in the present article that a different explanatory strategy, based on the posit of limitations to the underdetermination of scientific theory building by the available empirical data, offers a more convincing understanding of scientific success.
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  12. Mark Day & George S. Botterill (2008). Contrast, Inference and Scientific Realism. Synthese 160 (2):249 - 267.
    The thesis of underdetermination presents a major obstacle to the epistemological claims of scientific realism. That thesis is regularly assumed in the philosophy of science, but is puzzlingly at odds with the actual history of science, in which empirically adequate theories are thin on the ground. We propose to advance a case for scientific realism which concentrates on the process of scientific reasoning rather than its theoretical products. Developing an account of causal–explanatory inference will make it easier to resist the (...)
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  13. Michael Dickson (1999). The Light at the End of the Tunneling: Observation and Underdetermination. Philosophy of Science 66 (3):58.
    If observation is 'theory-laden', how can there be 'observationally equivalent theories'? How can the observations 'laden' by one theory be 'the same as' those 'laden' by another? The answer might lie in the expressibility of observationally equivalent theories in a common mathematical formalism.
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  14. Igor Douven & Leon Horsten (1998). Earman on Underdetermination and Empirical Indistinguishability. Erkenntnis 49 (3):303-320.
    Earman (1993) distinguishes three notions of empirical indistinguishability and offers a rigorous framework to investigate how each of these notions relates to the problem of underdetermination of theory choice. He uses some of the results obtained in this framework to argue for a version of scientific anti- realism. In the present paper we first criticize Earman's arguments for that position. Secondly, we propose and motivate a modification of Earman's framework and establish several results concerning some of the notions of indistinguishability (...)
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  15. John Earman (1993). Underdetermination, Realism, and Reason. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 18 (1):19-38.
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  16. Michael Esfeld (2005). Scientific Realism and the History of Science. Philosophy 1:1-15.
    The paper considers the two main challenges to scientific realism, stemming from confirmation holism and the underdetermination thesis as well as from semantic holism and the incommensurability thesis. Against the first challenge, it is argued that there are other criteria besides agreement with experience that enable a rational evaluation of competing theories. Against the second challenge, it is argued that at most a thesis of local incommensurability can be defended that is compatible with a minimal version of scientific realism, namely (...)
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  17. Steven French (2011). Metaphysical Underdetermination: Why Worry? Synthese 180 (2):205 - 221.
    Various forms of underdetermination that might threaten the realist stance are examined. That which holds between different 'formulations' of a theory (such as the Hamiltonian and Lagrangian formulations of classical mechanics) is considered in some detail, as is the 'metaphysical' underdetermination invoked to support 'ontic structural realism'. The problematic roles of heuristic fruitfulness and surplus structure in attempts to break these forms of underdetermination are discussed and an approach emphasizing the relevant structural commonalities is defended.
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  18. Ulrich Gähde (2002). Holism, Underdetermination, and the Dynamics of Empirical Theories. Synthese 130 (1):69 - 90.
    The goal of this article is to show that the structuralist approachprovides a powerful framework for the analysis of certain holistic phenomena in empirical theories.We focus on two aspects of holism. The first refers to the involvement of comprehensive complexes of hypothesesin the theoretical treatment of systems regarded in isolation. By contrast, the second refers to thecorrelation between the theoretical descriptions of different systems. It is demonstrated how these two aspectscan be analysed by making use of the structuralist notion of (...)
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  19. Peter Godfrey-Smith (2008). Recurrent Transient Underdetermination and the Glass Half Full. [REVIEW] Philosophical Studies 137 (1):141 - 148.
    Kyle Stanford’s arguments against scientific realism are assessed, with a focus on the underdetermination of theory by evidence. I argue that discussions of underdetermination have neglected a possible symmetry which may ameliorate the situation.
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  20. Orit Gwirceman (2003). A Closer Look at the Underdetermination Thesis and its Use in Debates Concerning Scientific Realism. Dissertation, Rutgers the State University of New Jersey - New Brunswick
    The underdetermination thesis , the claim that every theory has a rival that is equally reasonable to believe given all the possible evidence, is central in the debate between Scientific Realists and Scientific Anti-Realists. We address central arguments on both sides and argue for the truth of a certain version of the thesis. ;Scientific Realists argue that UD is false because the class of facts relative to which the rivals are compared can change in unforeseeable ways because: the class of (...)
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  21. Dan Hicks (2014). A New Direction for Science and Values. Synthese 191 (14):3271-95.
    The controversy over the old ideal of “value-free science” has cooled significantly over the past decade. Many philosophers of science now agree that even ethical and political values may play a substantial role in all aspects of scientific inquiry. Consequently, in the last few years, work in science and values has become more specific: Which values may influence science, and in which ways? Or, how do we distinguish illegitimate from illegitimate kinds of influence? In this paper, I argue that this (...)
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  22. Robert G. Hudson (1997). Classical Physics and Early Quantum Theory: A Legitimate Case of Theoretical Underdetermination. Synthese 110 (2):217-256.
    In 1912, Henri Poincaré published an argument which apparently shows that the hypothesis of quanta is both necessary and sufficient for the truth of Planck''s experimentally corroborated law describing the spectral distribution of radiant energy in a black body. In a recent paper, John <span class='Hi'>Norton</span> has reaffirmed the authority of Poincarés argument, setting it up as a paradigm case in which empirical data can be used to definitively rule out theoretical competitors to a given theoretical hypothesis. My goal is (...)
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  23. Ward E. Jones (2000). Underdetermination and the Explanation of Theory-Acceptance: A Response to Samir Okasha. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 14 (3):299 – 304.
    After a thorough examination of the claim that "the underdetermination of theory by evidence forces us to seek sociological explanations of scientists' cognitive choices", Samir Okasha concludes that the only significant problem with this argument is that the thesis of underdetermination is not adequately supported. Against Okasha, I argue (1) that there is a very good reason to question the inference from the underdetermination of a theory to a sociological account of that theory's acceptance, and (2) that Okasha's own objection (...)
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  24. Larry Laudan (1990). Demystifying Underdetermination. In C. Wade Savage (ed.), Scientific Theories. University of Minnesota Press 267-97.
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  25. Jarrett Leplin (1997). The Underdetermination of Total Theories. Erkenntnis 47 (2):203-215.
    This paper criticizes the attempt to found the epistemological doctrine that all theories are evidentially underdetermined on the thesis that all theories have empirically equivalent rivals. The criticisms focus on the role of auxiliary hypotheses in prediction. It is argued, in particular, that if auxiliaries are underdetermined, then the thesis of empirical equivalence is undecidable. The inference from empirical equivalence to the underdetermination of total theories would seem to survive the criticisms, because total theories do not require auxiliaries to yield (...)
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  26. Holger Lyre (2011). Is Structural Underdetermination Possible? Synthese 180 (2):235 - 247.
    Structural realism is sometimes said to undermine the theory underdetermination (TUD) argument against realism, since, in usual TUD scenarios, the supposed underdetermination concerns the object-like theoretical content but not the structural content. The paper explores the possibility of structural TUD by considering some special cases from modern physics, but also questions the validity of the TUD argument itself. The upshot is that cases of structural TUD cannot be excluded, but that TUD is perhaps not such a terribly serious anti-realistic argument.
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  27. Holger Lyre (2010). Why Quantum Theory is Possibly Wrong. Foundations of Physics 40 (9):1429-1438.
    Quantum theory is a tremendously successful physical theory, but nevertheless suffers from two serious problems: the measurement problem and the problem of interpretational underdetermination. The latter, however, is largely overlooked as a genuine problem of its own. Both problems concern the doctrine of realism, but pull, quite curiously, into opposite directions. The measurement problem can be captured such that due to scientific realism about quantum theory common sense anti-realism follows, while theory underdetermination usually counts as an argument against scientific realism. (...)
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  28. P. D. Magnus (2006). What's New About the New Induction? Synthese 148 (2):295 - 301.
    The problem of underdetermination is thought to hold important lessons for philosophy of science. Yet, as Kyle Stanford has recently argued, typical treatments of it offer only restatements of familiar philosophical problems. Following suggestions in Duhem and Sklar, Stanford calls for a New Induction from the history of science. It will provide proof, he thinks, of “the kind of underdetermination that the history of science reveals to be a distinctive and genuine threat to even our best scientific theories” (Stanford 2001, (...)
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  29. P. D. Magnus (2005). Background Theories and Total Science. Philosophy of Science 72 (5):1064-1075.
    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 (...)
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  30. Lolita B. Makeeva (2010). Scientific Realism, Truth, and the Underdetermination of Theories by Empirical Data. Russian Studies in Philosophy 49 (3):58-71.
    The author critiques one of the arguments commonly used by opponents of scientific realism—namely, the thesis that scientific theories are underdetermined by empirical data.
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  31. Ernan McMullin (1995). Underdetermination. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 20 (3):233-252.
    When trying to assess the implications of recent deep shifts in the philosophy of science for the broader arena of medicine, the theme that most readily comes to mind is underdetermination . In scientific research one always hopes for determination: that the world should determine the observations we make of it; that evidence should determine the theories we adopt; that the practice of science should determine results independent of the sort of society in which that practice takes place. In this (...)
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  32. John D. Norton (forthcoming). Must Evidence Underdetermine Theory. The Challenge of the Social and the Pressure of Practice:17--44.
    According to the underdetermination thesis, all evidence necessarily underdetermines any scientific theory. Thus it is often argued that our agreement on the content of mature scientific theories must be due to social and other factors. Drawing on a long standing tradition of criticism, I shall argue that the underdetermination thesis is little more than speculation based on an impoverished account of induction. A more careful look at accounts of induction does not support an assured underdetermination or the holism usually associated (...)
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  33. Samir Okasha (2000). The Underdetermination of Theory by Data and the "Strong Programme" in the Sociology of Knowledge. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 14 (3):283 – 297.
    Advocates of the "strong programme" in the sociology of knowledge have argued that, because scientific theories are "underdetermined" by data, sociological factors must be invoked to explain why scientists believe the theories they do. I examine this argument, and the responses to it by J.R. Brown (1989) and L. Laudan (1996). I distinguish between a number of different versions of the underdetermination thesis, some trivial, some substantive. I show that Brown's and Laudan's attempts to refute the sociologists' argument fail. Nonetheless, (...)
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  34. Wolfgang Pietsch (2012). Defending Underdetermination or Why the Historical Perspective Makes a Difference. In Henk W. de Regt (ed.), Epsa Philosophy of Science: Amsterdam 2009. Springer 303--313.
  35. Charlotte Werndl (2013). On Choosing Between Deterministic and Indeterministic Models: Underdetermination and Indirect Evidence. Synthese 190 (12):2243-2265.
    There are results which show that measure-theoretic deterministic models and stochastic models are observationally equivalent. Thus there is a choice between a deterministic and an indeterministic model and the question arises: Which model is preferable relative to evidence? If the evidence equally supports both models, there is underdetermination. This paper first distinguishes between different kinds of choice and clarifies the possible resulting types of underdetermination. Then a new answer is presented: the focus is on the choice between a Newtonian deterministic (...)
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  36. Jon Williamson, Intervention, Underdetermination, and Theory Generation.
    We consider the use of intervention data for eliminating the underdetermination in statistical modelling, and for guiding extensions of the statistical models. The leading example is factor analysis, a major statistical tool in the social sciences. We first relate indeterminacy in factor analysis to the problem of underdetermination. Then we draw a parallel between factor analysis models and Bayesian networks with hidden nodes, which allows us to clarify the use of intervention data for dealing with indeterminacy. It will be shown (...)
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  37. John Worrall, 1. Introduction: The 'Threat' to Realism From Underdetermination.
    The appeal of scientific realism is chiefly based on the – staggering – empirical success of the theories currently accepted in science. The realist exhibits some currently accepted scientific theory (the General Theory of Relativity, say), points to its astounding empirical success (with the gravitational redshift, the precession of Mercury’s perihelion, etc) and suggests that it would be monumentally implausible to suppose that the theory could score such empirical successes and yet not reflect, at least to some good approximation, the (...)
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  38. Saeid Zibakalam (1994). Relativism Due to Underdetermination of Theory by Data. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 8 (3):211 – 228.
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Empirically Equivalent Theories
  1. Tulodziecki Dana (2007). Breaking the Ties: Epistemic Significance, Bacilli, and Underdetermination. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C.
  2. Hans Halvorson (2013). The Semantic View, If Plausible, Is Syntactic. Philosophy of Science 80 (3):475-478.
  3. Milena Ivanova & Cedric Paternotte (2013). Theory Choice, Good Sense and Social Consensus. Erkenntnis 78 (5):1109-1132.
    There has been a significant interest in the recent literature in developing a solution to the problem of theory choice which is both normative and descriptive, but agent-based rather than rule-based, originating from Pierre Duhem’s notion of ‘good sense’. In this paper we present the properties Duhem attributes to good sense in different contexts, before examining its current reconstructions advanced in the literature and their limitations. We propose an alternative account of good sense, seen as promoting social consensus in science, (...)
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  4. Jonathan Michael Kaplan & Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther (2013). Prisoners of Abstraction? The Theory and Measure of Genetic Variation, and the Very Concept of 'Race'. Biological Theory 7 (1):401-412.
    It is illegitimate to read any ontology about "race" off of biological theory or data. Indeed, the technical meaning of "genetic variation" is fluid, and there is no single theoretical agreed-upon criterion for defining and distinguishing populations (or groups or clusters) given a particular set of genetic variation data. Thus, by analyzing three formal senses of "genetic variation"—diversity, differentiation, and heterozygosity—we argue that the use of biological theory for making epistemic claims about "race" can only seem plausible when it relies (...)
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  5. P. D. Magnus (2005). Reckoning the Shape of Everything: Underdetermination and Cosmotopology. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 56 (3):541-557.
    This paper offers a general characterization of underdetermination and gives a prima facie case for the underdetermination of the topology of the universe. A survey of several philosophical approaches to the problem fails to resolve the issue: the case involves the possibility of massive reduplication, but Strawson on massive reduplication provides no help here; it is not obvious that any of the rival theories are to be preferred on grounds of simplicity; and the usual talk of empirically equivalent theories misses (...)
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  6. Seungbae Park (forthcoming). The Argument From Underconsideration Reconsidered. Acta Philosophica 24 (2).
    Scientific antirealists run the argument from underconsideration against scientific realism. I reply that the argument from underconsideration backfires on antirealists’ positive philosophical theories, such as the contextual theory of explanation (van Fraassen, 1980), the English model of rationality (van Fraassen, 1989), the evolutionary explanation of the success of science (Wray, 2008; 2012), and explanatory idealism (Khalifa, 2013). Antirealists strengthen the argument from underconsideration with the pessimistic induction against current scientific theories. In response, I construct a pessimistic induction that since antirealists (...)
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  7. Seungbae Park (2015). Accepting Our Best Scientific Theories. Filosofija. Sociologija 26 (3):218-227.
    Dawes (2013) claims that we ought not to believe but to accept our best scientific theories. To accept them means to employ them as premises in our reasoning with the goal of attaining knowledge about unobservables. I reply that if we do not believe our best scientific theories, we cannot gain knowledge about unobservables, our opponents might dismiss the predictions derived from them, and we cannot use them to explain phenomena. We commit an unethical speech act when we explain a (...)
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  8. Seungbae Park (2015). Explanatory Failures of Relative Realism. Epistemologia 38:16-28.
    Scientific realism (Putnam 1975; Psillos 1999) and relative realism (Mizrahi 2013) claim that successful scientific theories are approximately true and comparatively true, respectively. A theory is approximately true if and only if it is close to the truth. A theory is comparatively true if and only if it is closer to the truth than its competitors are. I argue that relative realism is more skeptical about the claims of science than it initially appears to be and that it can explain (...)
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  9. Seungbae Park (2014). Approximate Truth Vs. Empirical Adequacy. Epistemologia 37 (1):106-118.
    Suppose that scientific realists believe that a successful theory is approximately true, and that constructive empiricists believe that it is empirically adequate. Whose belief is more likely to be false? The problem of underdetermination does not yield an answer to this question one way or the other, but the pessimistic induction does. The pessimistic induction, if correct, indicates that successful theories, both past and current, are empirically inadequate. It is arguable, however, that they are approximately true. Therefore, scientific realists overall (...)
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  10. D. Tulodziecki (2013). Underdetermination, Methodological Practices, and Realism. Synthese 190 (17):3731-3750.
    In this paper, I argue (i) that there are certain methodological practices that are epistemically significant, and (ii) that we can test for the success of these practices empirically by examining case-studies in the history of science. Analysing a particular episode from the history of medicine, I explain how this can help us resolve specific cases of underdetermination. I conclude that, while the anti-realist is (more or less legitimately) able to construct underdetermination scenarios on a case-by-case basis, he will have (...)
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  11. D. Tulodziecki (2012). Epistemic Equivalence and Epistemic Incapacitation. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 63 (2):313-328.
    One typical realist response to the argument from underdetermination of theories by evidence is an appeal to epistemic criteria besides the empirical evidence to argue that, while scientific theories might be empirically equivalent, they are not epistemically equivalent. In this article, I spell out a new and reformulated version of the underdetermination argument that takes such criteria into account. I explain the notion of epistemic equivalence which this new argument appeals to, and argue that epistemic equivalence can be achieved in (...)
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  12. D. Tulodziecki (2007). Breaking the Ties: Epistemic Significance, Bacilli, and Underdetermination. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 38 (3):627-641.
    One premise of the underdetermination argument is that entailment of evidence is the only epistemic constraint on theory-choice. I argue that methodological rules can be epistemically significant, both with respect to observables and unobservables. Using an example from the history of medicine—Koch’s 1882 discovery of tuberculosis bacteria—I argue that even anti-realists ought to accept that these rules can break the tie between theories that are allegedly underdetermined. I then distinguish two types of underdetermination and argue that anti-realists, in order to (...)
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