David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
PhilSci Archive (2004)
Most scientists and philosophers of science recognize that, when it comes to accepting and rejecting theories in science, considerations that have to do with simplicity, unity, symmetry, elegance, beauty or explanatory power have an important role to play, in addition to empirical considerations. Until recently, however, no one has been able to give a satisfactory account of what simplicity (etc.) is, or how giving preference to simple theories is to be justified. But in the last few years, two different but related accounts have appeared, both of which address the above issues. On the one hand, James McAllister has argued that aesthetic criteria in science reflect scientists' judgements about what kind of theory is most likely to be empirically successful, based on the relative empirical success and failure of different kinds of theories in the past. Scientists employ what McAllister dubs "the aesthetic induction". On the other hand, I have argued that we need to see science as making a hierarchy of metaphysical assumptions about the comprehensibility and knowability of the universe, these assumptions asserting less and less as one ascends the hierarchy. One of the more substantial of these assumptions is that the universe is physically comprehensible. The key non-empirical feature a body of fundamental theories in physics must possess to be acceptable is unity. The better such a body of theory exemplifies the metaphysical thesis that the universe is physically comprehensible, in the sense that it has a unified dynamic structure, so the more acceptable such a body of theory is, from this standpoint. This affects not just theoretical physics, but the whole of natural science. In this paper I compare and contrast, and try to assess impartially the relative merits of, these two views.
|Keywords||Aim-Oriented Empiricism Simplicity Theoretical beauty|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
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.
Citations of this work BETA
No citations found.
Similar books and articles
James W. McAllister (1991). The Simplicity of Theories: Its Degree and Form. [REVIEW] Journal for General Philosophy of Science 22 (1):1-14.
Nicholas Maxwell (2005). A Mug's Game? Solving the Problem of Induction with Metaphysical Presuppositions. In John Earman & John Norton (eds.), PhilSci Archive.
Gideon Engler (2002). Einstein and the Most Beautiful Theories in Physics. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 16 (1):27 – 37.
Nicholas Maxwell (2002). The Need for a Revolution in the Philosophy of Science. Journal for General Philosophy of Science 33 (2):381-408.
Nicholas Maxwell, Non-Empirical Requirements Scientific Theories Must Satisfy: Simplicity, Unification, Explanation, Beauty. PhilSci Archive.
Nicholas Maxwell, Simplicity. PhilSci Archive.
Nicholas Maxwell, The Problem of Induction and Metaphysical Assumptions Concerning the Comprehensibility and Knowability of the Universe. PhilSci Archive.
Nicholas Maxwell (1999). Has Science Established That the Universe is Comprehensible? Cogito 13 (2):139-145.
Nicholas Maxwell (2011). A Priori Conjectural Knowledge in Physics: The Comprehensibility of the Universe. In Mkichael Shaffer & Michael Veber (eds.), What Place for the A Priori? Open Court.
Nicholas Maxwell, Scientific Metaphysics. PhilSci Archive.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads123 ( #8,663 of 1,102,035 )
Recent downloads (6 months)4 ( #91,864 of 1,102,035 )
How can I increase my downloads?