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Profile: P. D. Magnus (State University of New York, Albany)
  1. P. D. Magnus, What SPECIES Can Teach Us About THEORY.
    This paper argues against the common, often implicit view that theories are some specific kind of thing. Instead, I argue for theory concept pluralism: There are multiple distinct theory concepts which we legitimately use in different domains and for different purposes, and we should not expect this to change. The argument goes by analogy with species concept pluralism, a familiar position in philosophy of biology. I conclude by considering some consequences for philosophy of science if theory concept pluralism is correct.
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  2. P. D. Magnus, Regarding Scientific Significance.
    A discussion and qualified defense of Philip Kitcher on scientific significance and ‘well-ordered science.’ (Qualified because I argue that Kitcher’s position is made unstable by his reliance on the largely unanalyzed notion of natural curiosity.).
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  3. P. D. Magnus & Ron McClamrock (forthcoming). Friends with Benefits! Distributed Cognition Hooks Up Cognitive and Social Conceptions of Science. Philosophical Psychology:1-14.
    One approach to science treats science as a cognitive accomplishment of individuals and defines a scientific community as an aggregate of individual inquirers. Another treats science as a fundamentally collective endeavor and defines a scientist as a member of a scientific community. Distributed cognition has been offered as a framework that could be used to reconcile these two approaches. Adam Toon has recently asked if the cognitive and the social can be friends at last. He answers that they probably cannot, (...)
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  4. Jason D'cruz & P. D. Magnus (2014). Are Digital Images Allographic? Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 72 (4):417-427.
    Nelson Goodman's distinction between autographic and allographic arts is appealing, we suggest, because it promises to resolve several prima facie puzzles. We consider and rebut a recent argument that alleges that digital images explode the autographic/allographic distinction. Regardless, there is another familiar problem with the distinction, especially as Goodman formulates it: it seems to entirely ignore an important sense in which all artworks are historical. We note in reply that some artworks can be considered both as historical products and as (...)
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  5. P. D. Magnus (2014). NK≠HPC. Philosophical Quarterly 64 (256):471-477.
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  6. P. D. Magnus, Science and Rationality for One and All.
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  7. P. D. Magnus (2014). What Scientists Know Is Not a Function of What Scientists Know. Philosophy of Science 80 (5):840-849.
    There are two senses of ‘what scientists know’: An individual sense (the separate opinions of individual scientists) and a collective sense (the state of the discipline). The latter is what matters for policy and planning, but it is not something that can be directly observed or reported. A function can be defined to map individual judgments onto an aggregate judgment. I argue that such a function cannot effectively capture community opinion, especially in cases that matter to us.
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  8. Heather Douglas & P. D. Magnus (2013). State of the Field: Why Novel Prediction Matters. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 44 (4):580-589.
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  9. P. D. Magnus (2013). Anas Platyrhynchos and 'Classical Gas'. In Christy Mag Uidhir (ed.), Art and Abstract Objects. Oxford University Press. 108.
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  10. P. D. Magnus (2013). Philosophy of Science in the Twenty-First Century. Metaphilosophy 44 (1-2):48-52.
    Philosophy of science in the past half century can be seen as a reaction against logical empiricism's focus on modern logic as the format in which debates should be expressed and on physics as the canonical science. These reactions have resulted in a fragmentation of the field. Although this provides ways forward for disparate philosophies of various sciences, it threatens the very possibility of general philosophy of science. The debate that most obviously continues to be conducted at the general level—the (...)
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  11. P. D. Magnus, Cristyn Magnus & Christy Mag Uidhir (2013). Judging Covers. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 71 (4):361-370.
    Cover versions form a loose but identifiable category of tracks and performances. We distinguish four kinds of covers and argue that they mark important differences in the modes of evaluation that are possible or appropriate for each: mimic covers, which aim merely to echo the canonical track; rendition covers, which change the sound of the canonical track; transformative covers, which diverge so much as to instantiate a distinct, albeit derivative song; and referential covers, which not only instantiate a distinct song, (...)
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  12. P. D. Magnus (2012). Scientific Enquiry and Natural Kinds: From Planets to Mallards. Palgrave Macmillan.
    These are indispensable for successful science in some domain; in short, they are natural kinds. This book gives a general account of what it is to be a natural kind. It untangles philosophical puzzles surrounding natural kinds.
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  13. Christy Mag Uidhir & P. D. Magnus (2011). Art Concept Pluralism. Metaphilosophy 42 (1-2):83-97.
    Abstract: There is a long tradition of trying to analyze art either by providing a definition (essentialism) or by tracing its contours as an indefinable, open concept (anti-essentialism). Both art essentialists and art anti-essentialists share an implicit assumption of art concept monism. This article argues that this assumption is a mistake. Species concept pluralism—a well-explored position in philosophy of biology—provides a model for art concept pluralism. The article explores the conditions under which concept pluralism is appropriate, and argues that they (...)
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  14. P. D. Magnus (2011). Drakes, Seadevils, and Similarity Fetishism. Biology and Philosophy 26 (6):857-870.
    Homeostatic property clusters (HPCs) are offered as a way of understanding natural kinds, especially biological species. I review the HPC approach and then discuss an objection by Ereshefsky and Matthen, to the effect that an HPC qua cluster seems ill-fitted as a description of a polymorphic species. The standard response by champions of the HPC approach is to say that all members of a polymorphic species have things in common, namely dispositions or conditional properties. I argue that this response fails. (...)
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  15. Greg Frost-Arnold & P. D. Magnus (2010). The Identical Rivals Response to Underdetermination. In P. D. Magnus Jacob Busch (ed.), New Waves in Philosophy of Science. Palgrave Macmillan.
    The underdetermination of theory by data obtains when, inescapably, evidence is insufficient to allow scientists to decide responsibly between rival theories. One response to would-be underdetermination is to deny that the rival theories are distinct theories at all, insisting instead that they are just different formulations of the same underlying theory; we call this the identical rivals response. An argument adapted from John Norton suggests that the response is presumptively always appropriate, while another from Larry Laudan and Jarrett Leplin (...)
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  16. P. D. Magnus, Forall X, Version 1.28.
    This is may be old version of the text. The current version is available at http://www.fecundity.com/logic.
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  17. P. D. Magnus (2010). Inductions, Red Herrings, and the Best Explanation for the Mixed Record of Science. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 61 (4):803-819.
    Kyle Stanford has recently claimed to offer a new challenge to scientific realism. Taking his inspiration from the familiar Pessimistic Induction (PI), Stanford proposes a New Induction (NI). Contra Anjan Chakravartty’s suggestion that the NI is a ‘red herring’, I argue that it reveals something deep and important about science. The Problem of Unconceived Alternatives, which lies at the heart of the NI, yields a richer anti-realism than the PI. It explains why science falls short when it falls short, and (...)
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  18. P. D. Magnus & Jacob Busch (eds.) (2010). New Waves in Philosophy of Science. Palgrave Macmillan.
  19. P. D. Magnus (2009). On Trusting WIKIPEDIA. Episteme 6 (1):74-90.
    Given the fact that many people use Wikipedia, we should ask: Can we trust it? The empirical evidence suggests that Wikipedia articles are sometimes quite good but that they vary a great deal. As such, it is wrong to ask for a monolithic verdict on Wikipedia. Interacting with Wikipedia involves assessing where it is likely to be reliable and where not. I identify five strategies that we use to assess claims from other sources and argue that, to a greater of (...)
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  20. P. D. Magnus (2008). Mag Uidhir on Performance. British Journal of Aesthetics 48 (3):338-345.
    Christy Mag Uidhir has recently argued (a) that there is no in principle aesthetic difference between a live performance and a recording of that performance, and (b) that the proper aesthetic object is a type which is instantiated by the performance and potentially repeatable when recordings are played back. This paper considers several objections to (a) and finds them lacking. I then consider improvised music, a subject that Mag Uidhir explicitly brackets in his discussion. Improvisation reveals problems with (b), because (...)
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  21. P. D. Magnus (2008). Demonstrative Induction and the Skeleton of Inference. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 22 (3):303 – 315.
    It has been common wisdom for centuries that scientific inference cannot be deductive; if it is inference at all, it must be a distinctive kind of inductive inference. According to demonstrative theories of induction, however, important scientific inferences are not inductive in the sense of requiring ampliative inference rules at all. Rather, they are deductive inferences with sufficiently strong premises. General considerations about inferences suffice to show that there is no difference in justification between an inference construed demonstratively or ampliatively. (...)
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  22. P. D. Magnus, Fibs in the Wikipedia.
    These are details of research conducted in November and December 2007. The file is meant as a supplement to publication, and I have not attempted here to provide any analysis of the results.
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  23. P. D. Magnus (2008). Reid's Defense of Common Sense. Philosophers' Imprint 8 (3):1-14.
    Thomas Reid is often misread as defending common sense, if at all, only by relying on illicit premises about God or our natural faculties. On these theological or reliabilist misreadings, Reid makes common sense assertions where he cannot give arguments. This paper attempts to untangle Reid's defense of common sense by distinguishing four arguments: (a) the argument from madness, (b) the argument from natural faculties, (c) the argument from impotence, and (d) the argument from practical commitment. Of these, (a) and (...)
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  24. P. D. Magnus (2007). Distributed Cognition and the Task of Science. Social Studies of Science 37 (2):297--310.
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  25. P. D. Magnus (2006). Epistemology and the Wikipedia. North American Computing and Philosophy Conference.
    Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia that is written and edited entirely by visitors to its website. I argue that we are misled when we think of it in the same epistemic category with traditional general encyclopedias. An empirical assessment of its reliability reveals that it varies widely from topic to topic. So any particular claim found in it cannot be relied on based on its source. I survey some methods that we use in assessing specific claims and argue that the (...)
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  26. P. D. Magnus (2006). Underdetermination of Theories. In J. Pfeifer & Sahotra Sarkar (eds.), The Philosophy of Science: An Encyclopedia. Psychology Press. 839--842.
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  27. P. D. Magnus (2006). What's New About the New Induction? Synthese 148 (2):295 - 301.
    The problem of underdetermination is thought to hold important lessons for philosophy of science. Yet, as Kyle Stanford has recently argued, typical treatments of it offer only restatements of familiar philosophical problems. Following suggestions in Duhem and Sklar, Stanford calls for a New Induction from the history of science. It will provide proof, he thinks, of “the kind of underdetermination that the history of science reveals to be a distinctive and genuine threat to even our best scientific theories” (Stanford 2001, (...)
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  28. P. D. Magnus (2005). Background Theories and Total Science. Philosophy of Science 72 (5):1064-1075.
    Background theories in science are used both to prove and to disprove that theory choice is underdetermined by data. The alleged proof appeals to the fact that experiments to decide between theories typically require auxiliary assumptions from other theories. If this generates a kind of underdetermination, it shows that standards of scientific inference are fallible and must be appropriately contextualized. The alleged disproof appeals to the possibility of suitable background theories to show that no theory choice can be timelessly or (...)
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  29. P. D. Magnus (2005). Peirce: Underdetermination, Agnosticism, and Related Mistakes. Inquiry 48 (1):26 – 37.
    There are two ways that we might respond to the underdetermination of theory by data. One response, which we can call the agnostic response, is to suspend judgment: "Where scientific standards cannot guide us, we should believe nothing". Another response, which we can call the fideist response, is to believe whatever we would like to believe: "If science cannot speak to the question, then we may believe anything without science ever contradicting us". C.S. Peirce recognized these options and suggested evading (...)
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  30. P. D. Magnus (2005). Reckoning the Shape of Everything: Underdetermination and Cosmotopology. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 56 (3):541-557.
    This paper offers a general characterization of underdetermination and gives a prima facie case for the underdetermination of the topology of the universe. A survey of several philosophical approaches to the problem fails to resolve the issue: the case involves the possibility of massive reduplication, but Strawson on massive reduplication provides no help here; it is not obvious that any of the rival theories are to be preferred on grounds of simplicity; and the usual talk of empirically equivalent theories misses (...)
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  31. P. D. Magnus (2005). Hormone Research as an Exemplar of Underdetermination. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 36 (3):559-567.
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  32. P. D. Magnus (2004). Reid's Dilemma and the Uses of Pragmatism. Journal of Scottish Philosophy 2 (1):69-72.
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  33. P. D. Magnus (2004). The Price of Insisting That Quantum Mechanics is Complete. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 55 (2):257-267.
    The Bare Theory was offered by David Albert as a way of standing by the completeness of quantum mechanics in the face of the measurement problem. This paper surveys objections to the Bare Theory that recur in the literature: what will here be called the oddity objection, the coherence objection, and the context-of-the-universe objection. Critics usually take the Bare Theory to have unacceptably bizarre consequences, but to be free from internal contradiction. Bizarre consequences need not be decisive against the Bare (...)
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  34. P. D. Magnus & Craig Callender (2004). Realist Ennui and the Base Rate Fallacy. Philosophy of Science 71 (3):320-338.
    The no-miracles argument and the pessimistic induction are arguably the main considerations for and against scientific realism. Recently these arguments have been accused of embodying a familiar, seductive fallacy. In each case, we are tricked by a base rate fallacy, one much-discussed in the psychological literature. In this paper we consider this accusation and use it as an explanation for why the two most prominent `wholesale' arguments in the literature seem irresolvable. Framed probabilistically, we can see very clearly why realists (...)
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  35. P. D. Magnus (2003). Success, Truth and the Galilean Strategy. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 54 (3):465-474.
    Philip Kitcher develops the Galilean Strategy to defend realism against its many opponents. I explore the structure of the Galilean Strategy and consider it specifically as an instrument against constructive empiricism. Kitcher claims that the Galilean Strategy underwrites an inference from success to truth. We should resist that conclusion, I argue, but the Galilean Strategy should lead us by other routes to believe in many things about which the empiricist would rather remain agnostic. 1 Target: empiricism 2 The Galilean Strategy (...)
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  36. P. D. Magnus (2003). Underdetermination and the Problem of Identical Rivals. Philosophy of Science 70 (5):1256-1264.
    If two theory formulations are merely different expressions of the same theory, then any problem of choosing between them cannot be due to the underdetermination of theories by data. So one might suspect that we need to be able to tell distinct theories from mere alternate formulations before we can say anything substantive about underdetermination, that we need to solve the problem of identical rivals before addressing the problem of underdetermination. Here I consider two possible solutions: Quine proposes that we (...)
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  37. P. D. Magnus (2003). Underdetermination and the Claims of Science. PhD Thesis.
    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 (...)
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  38. P. D. Magnus & Jonathan Cohen (2003). Williamson on Knowledge and Psychological Explanation. Philosophical Studies 116 (1):37-52.
    According to many philosophers, psychological explanation canlegitimately be given in terms of belief and desire, but not in termsof knowledge. To explain why someone does what they do (so the common wisdom holds) you can appeal to what they think or what they want, but not what they know. Timothy Williamson has recently argued against this view. Knowledge, Williamson insists, plays an essential role in ordinary psychological explanation.Williamson's argument works on two fronts.First, he argues against the claim that, unlike knowledge, (...)
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  39. P. D. Magnus (2001). Reliability on the Crowded Net: Finding the Truth in a Web of Deceit. MacHack.
    On-line, just as off-line, there are ways of assessing the credibility of information sources. The Internet, although it arguably makes for nothing wholly new in this regard, complicates the ordinary task of assessing credibility. In the first section, I consider a specific example and argue that Internet content providers have no clear interest in resolving these comlications. In the second, I consider four general ways that we might assess credibility and explore how they apply to life online. Finally, I argue (...)
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  40. P. D. Magnus (2000). Reality, Sex, and Cyberspace. MacHack.
    Typical discussions of virtual reality (VR) fixate on technology for providing sensory stimulation of a certain kind. They thus fail to understand reality as the place wherein we live and work, misunderstanding it instead as merely a sort of presentation. The first half of the paper examines popular conceptions of VR. The most common conception is a shallow one according to which VR is a matter of simulating appearances. Yet there is, even in popular depictions, a second, more subtle conception (...)
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  41. Greg Frost-Arnold, J. Brian Pitts, John Norton, John Manchak, D. Tulodziecki, P. D. Magnus, David Harker & Kyle Stanford, Synopsis and Discussion. Workshop: Underdetermination in Science 21-22 March, 2009. Center for Philosophy of Science.
    This document collects discussion and commentary on issues raised in the workshop by its participants. Contributors are: Greg Frost-Arnold, David Harker, P. D. Magnus, John Manchak, John D. <span class='Hi'>Norton</span> , J. Brian Pitts, Kyle Stanford, Dana Tulodziecki.
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  42. P. D. Magnus, Forall X: An Introduction to Formal Logic.