Scientific realism, the atomic theory, and the catch-all hypothesis: Can we test fundamental theories against all serious alternatives?

Sherri Roush ([2005]) and I ([2001], [2006]) have each argued independently that the most significant challenge to scientific realism arises from our inability to consider the full range of serious alternatives to a given hypothesis we seek to test, but we diverge significantly concerning the range of cases in which this problem becomes acute. Here I argue against Roush's further suggestion that the atomic hypothesis represents a case in which scientific ingenuity has enabled us to overcome the problem, showing how her general strategy is undermined by evidence I have already offered in support of what I have called the 'problem of unconceived alternatives'. I then go on to show why her strategy will not generally (if ever) allow us to formulate and test exhaustive spaces of hypotheses in cases of fundamental scientific theorizing
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DOI 10.1093/bjps/axp003
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Arthur Fine (1991). Piecemeal Realism. Philosophical Studies 61 (1-2):79 - 96.

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