Greg Bamford
University of Queensland
Karl Popper defines an ad hoc hypothesis as one that is introduced to immunize a theory from some (or all) refutation but which cannot be tested independently. He has also attempted to explicate ad hocness in terms of certain other allegedly undesirable properties of hypotheses or of the explanations they would provide, but his account is confused and mistaken. The first such property is circularity, which is undesirable; the second such property is reduction in empirical content, which need not be. In the former case, I argue that non-circularity is in any event preferable to non-ad hocness as a necessary condition for a satisfactory explanation or an explanans, as the case may be, and I try to sort out various persistent errors surrounding this comparison. In the latter case, I suggest that Popper is barking up the wrong tree, that important scientific progress sometimes does consist in just such reductions in empirical content as he proscribes. This provides a further reason for not taking ad hoc hypotheses as Popper conceives them to pose the danger for science he believes they do
Keywords 210000 Science - General  440100 Philosophy  440102 Epistemology  auxiliary hypothesis   ad hoc hypothesis   ad hocness   circularity   empirical content   testability   falsifiability   falsification   refutation   Galileo   Neptune   Karl Popper   Adolf Grunbaum   W. Newton-Smith
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1093/bjps/44.2.335
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 65,579
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Model Selection in Macroeconomics: DSGE and Ad Hocness.Jaakko Kuorikoski & Aki Lehtinen - 2018 - Journal of Economic Methodology 25 (3):252-264.
Popper and His Commentators on the Discovery of Neptune: A Close Shave for the Law of Gravitation?Greg Bamford - 1996 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 27 (2):207-232.
A Coherentist Conception of Ad Hoc Hypotheses.Samuel Schindler - 2018 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 67:54-64.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Discussions: Testability and ‘ Ad-Hocness ’ of the Contraction Hypothesis.K. R. Popper - 1959 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 10 (37):50-a-50.
What is the Problem of Ad Hoc Hypotheses?Greg Bamford - 1999 - Science & Education 8 (4):375 - 86..
Popper’s Measure of Corroboration and P.Darrell Patrick Rowbottom - 2013 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (4):axs029.
Testability and 'Ad-Hocness' of the Contraction Hypothesis.K. R. Popper - 1959 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 10 (37):50.
Deduction and Novelty.Danny Frederick - 2011 - The Reasoner 5 (4):56-57.
Popper, Refutation and 'Avoidance' of Refutation.Greg Bamford - 1989 - Dissertation, The University of Queensland


Added to PP index

Total views
94 ( #117,881 of 2,461,789 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
4 ( #178,581 of 2,461,789 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes