David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Synthese 160 (2):249 - 267 (2008)
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 thesis of underdetermination. For, if we are not restricted to inference to the best explanation only at the level of major theories, we will be able to acknowledge that there is a structure in data sets which imposes serious constraints on possible theoretical alternatives. We describe how Differential Inference, a form of inference based on contrastive explanation, can be used in order to generate causal hypotheses. We then go on to consider how experimental manipulation of differences can be used to achieve Difference Closure, thereby confirming claims of causal efficacy and also eliminating possible confounds. The model of Differential Inference outlined here shows at least one way in which it is possible to ‘reason from the phenomena’.
|Keywords||Contrastive explanation The difference condition Inference to the best explanation Scientific realism Underdetermination|
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Ian Hacking (1983). Representing and Intervening: Introductory Topics in the Philosophy of Natural Science. Cambridge University Press.
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John Stuart Mill, J. M. Robson Editor of the Text & Introfduction by R. F. Mcrae (2006). A System of Logic Ratiocinative and Inductive. Books I-III. In The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill. Liberty Fund.
Citations of this work BETA
George Botterill (2010). Two Kinds of Causal Explanation. Theoria 76 (4):287-313.
Jane Suilin Lavelle, George Botterill & Suzanne Lock (2013). Contrastive Explanation and the Many Absences Problem. Synthese 190 (16):3495-3510.
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