The History of Science as a Graveyard of Theories: A Philosophers’ Myth?

Moti Mizrahi
Florida Institute of Technology
According to the antirealist argument known as the pessimistic induction, the history of science is a graveyard of dead scientific theories and abandoned theoretical posits. Support for this pessimistic picture of the history of science usually comes from a few case histories, such as the demise of the phlogiston theory and the abandonment of caloric as the substance of heat. In this article, I wish to take a new approach to examining the ‘history of science as a graveyard of theories’ picture. Using JSTOR Data for Research and Springer Exemplar, I present new lines of evidence that are at odds with this pessimistic picture of the history of science. When rigorously tested against the historical record of science, I submit, the pessimistic picture of the history of science as a graveyard of dead theories and abandoned posits may turn out to be no more than a philosophers’ myth.
Keywords graveyard picture  pessimistic induction  scientific realism
Categories (categorize this paper)
Reprint years 2017
DOI 10.1080/02698595.2017.1316113
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

References found in this work BETA

A Confutation of Convergent Realism.Larry Laudan - 1981 - Philosophy of Science 48 (1):19-49.
A Practical Study of Argument.Trudy Govier - 1991 - Wadsworth Pub. Co..

View all 40 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Optimistic Realism Over Selectivism.Seungbae Park - 2019 - Kriterion - Journal of Philosophy 33 (1):89-106.

View all 11 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Global and Local Pessimistic Meta-Inductions.Samuel Ruhmkorff - 2013 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 27 (4):409-428.
A Confutation of the Pessimistic Induction.Seungbae Park - 2011 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 42 (1):75-84.
A Pessimistic Induction Against Scientific Antirealism.Seungbae Park - 2014 - Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu 21 (1):3-21.
Extensional Scientific Realism Vs. Intensional Scientific Realism.Seungbae Park - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 59:46-52.
From the Pessimistic Induction to Semantic Anti-Realism.Greg Frost-Arnold - 2011 - Philosophy of Science 78 (5):1131-1142.
On the Pessimistic Induction and Two Fallacies.Juha Saatsi - 2004 - Philosophy of Science 72 (5):1088-1098.
The Pessimistic Induction, the Flight to Reference and the Metaphysical Zoo.Michael A. Bishop - 2003 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 17 (2):161 – 178.
Theory Change and Degrees of Success.Ludwig Fahrbach - 2011 - Philosophy of Science 78 (5):1283-1292.
Historical Inductions: New Cherries, Same Old Cherry-Picking.Moti Mizrahi - 2015 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 29 (2):129-148.
Scientific Realism and the 'Pessimistic Induction'.Stathis Psillos - 1996 - Philosophy of Science 63 (5):S306-S314.


Added to PP index

Total views
161 ( #47,014 of 2,266,534 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
73 ( #8,750 of 2,266,534 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature