Michael Devitt
CUNY Graduate Center
Stanford, in Exceeding Our Grasp , presents a powerful version of the pessimistic meta-induction. He claims that theories typically have empirically inequivalent but nonetheless well-confirmed, serious alternatives which are unconceived. This claim should be uncontroversial. But it alone is no threat to scientific realism. The threat comes from Stanford’s further crucial claim, supported by historical examples, that a theory’s unconceived alternatives are “radically distinct” from it; there is no “continuity”. A standard realist reply to the meta-induction is that past failures do not imply present ones because present theories are more successful than past ones. I have preferred to emphasize that present methodology is better than past ones. Stanford’s response to the standard reply is surprisingly brief and inadequate. He defends the inference from the uncontroversial claim but not that from the crucial one. He does not show that past discontinuity implies present discontinuity. Realism survives.
Keywords Stanford  Scientific realism  Unconceived alternatives  Pessimistic meta-induction  Methodology
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Reprint years 2011
DOI 10.1007/s10838-011-9166-9
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The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas Samuel Kuhn - 1962 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - University of Chicago Press.

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