Realism, underdetermination and string theory dualities

Synthese 190 (3):471-489 (2013)
String theory promises to be able to provide us with a working theory of quantum gravity and a unified description of all fundamental forces. In string theory there are so called ‘dualities’; i.e. different theoretical formulations that are physically equivalent. In this article these dualities are investigated from a philosophical point of view. Semantic and epistemic questions relating to the problem of underdetermination of theories by data and the debate on realism concerning scientific theories are discussed. Depending on ones views on semantic issues and realism different interpretations are possible of the dualities.
Keywords Underdetermination  Realism  Structural realism  String theory  Philosophy of physics
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