Problems of Existence in Philosophy and Science

Synthese 190:4239-4259 (2013)
We initially characterize what we’ll call existence problems as problems where there is evidence that a putative entity exists and this evidence is not easily dismissed; however, the evidence is not adequate to justify the claim that the entity exists, and in particular the entity hasn’t been detected. The putative entity is elusive. We then offer a strategy for determining whether an existence problem is philosophical or scientific. According to this strategy (1) existence problems are characterized in terms of causal roles, and (2) these problems are categorized as scientific or philosophical on the basis of the epistemic context of putative realizers. We argue that the first step of the strategy is necessary to avoid begging the question with regard to categorization of existence problems, and the second step categorizes existence problems on the basis of a distinction between two ways in which an entity can be elusive. This distinction between kinds of elusiveness takes as background a standard account of inference to the best explanation. Applying this strategy, we argue that the existence of a multiverse is a scientific problem.
Keywords Inference to the best explanation  Ontology  Existence problems in science
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