Abstract
I argue that scientific realism, insofar as it is only committed to those scientific posits of which we have causal knowledge, is immune to Kyle Stanford’s argument from unconceived alternatives. This causal strategy is shown not to repeat the shortcomings of previous realist responses to Stanford’s argument. Furthermore, I show that the notion of causal knowledge underlying it can be made sufficiently precise by means of conceptual tools recently introduced into the debate on scientific realism. Finally, I apply this strategy to the case of Jean Perrin’s experimental work on the atomic hypothesis, disputing Stanford’s claim that the problem of unconceived alternatives invalidates a realist interpretation of this historical episode. 1 Stanford’s Argument from Unconceived Alternatives2 Previous Attempts to Undermine the Problem of Unconceived Alternatives2.1 The plausibility of unconceived alternatives2.2 The distinctness of unconceived alternatives2.3 The induction from past to present3 Causal Knowledge as a Criterion for the Realist3.1 How Chakravartty’s proposal differs from earlier causal strategies3.2 Causal realism and the detection/auxiliary distinction4 Causal Realism, Unconceived Alternatives, and the Atomic Hypothesis4.1 Perrin and the philosophers: some initial observations4.2 Roush and Stanford on Perrin4.3 From Brownian motion to the reality of atoms4.4 What we know about atoms5 Conclusion.
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DOI 10.1093/bjps/axu025
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References found in this work BETA

How the Laws of Physics Lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - Oxford University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

Scientific Realism.Anjan Chakravartty - 2011 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Scientific Realism.Richard Boyd - 1984 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 21 (1&2):767-791.
Historical Inductions, Unconceived Alternatives, and Unconceived Objections.Moti Mizrahi - 2016 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 47 (1):59-68.
Reactionary Responses to the Bad Lot Objection.Finnur Dellsén - 2017 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 61:32-40.

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