Background theories and total science

Philosophy of Science 72 (5):1064-1075 (2004)

P. D. Magnus
State University of New York, Albany
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 noncontextually underdetermined: Foreground theories might be distinguished against different backgrounds. Philosophers have often replied to such a disproof by focussing their attention not on theories but on Total Sciences. If empirically equivalent Total Sciences were at stake, then there would be no background against which they could be differentiated. I offer several reasons to think that Total Science is a philosophers' fiction. No respectable underdetermination can be based on it.
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DOI 10.1086/508957
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References found in this work BETA

Scientific Realism and Naturalistic Epistemology.Richard Boyd - 1980 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1980:613-662.
The Disunities of the Sciences.Ian Hacking - 1996 - In Peter Galison & David Stump (eds.), The Disunity of Science. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. pp. 37-74.

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Citations of this work BETA

Demonstrative Induction and the Skeleton of Inference.P. D. Magnus - 2008 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 22 (3):303-315.
Scientific Enquiry and Natural Kinds: From Planets to Mallards. [REVIEW]Marion Godman - 2014 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 28 (3):343-346.

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