Underdetermination and the Claims of Science

PhD Thesis:1-191 (2003)
The underdetermination of theory by evidence is supposed to be a reason to rethink science. It is not. Many authors claim that underdetermination has momentous consequences for the status of scientific claims, but such claims are hidden in an umbra of obscurity and a penumbra of equivocation. So many various phenomena pass for `underdetermination' that it's tempting to think that it is no unified phenomenon at all, so I begin by providing a framework within which all these worries can be seen as species of one genus: A claim of underdetermination involves (at least implicitly) a set of rival theories, a standard of responsible judgment, and a scope of circumstances in which responsible choice between the rivals is impossible. Within this framework, I show that one variety of underdetermination motivated modern scepticism and thus is a familiar problem at the heart of epistemology. I survey arguments that infer from underdetermination to some reëvaluation of science: top-down arguments infer a priori from the ubiquity of underdetermination to some conclusion about science; bottom-up arguments infer from specific instances of underdetermination, to the claim that underdetermination is widespread, and then to some conclusion about science. The top-down arguments either fail to deliver underdetermination of any great significance or (as with modern scepticism) deliver some well-worn epistemic concern. The bottom-up arguments must rely on cases. I consider several promising cases and find them to either be so specialized that they cannot underwrite conclusions about science in general or not be underdetermined at all. Neither top-down nor bottom-up arguments can motivate any deep reconsideration of science.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories No categories specified
(categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 15,914
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
P. D. Magnus (2005). Hormone Research as an Exemplar of Underdetermination. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 36 (3):559-567.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

16 ( #164,155 of 1,725,622 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

1 ( #349,437 of 1,725,622 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.