In Lorenzo Magnani & Claudia Casadio (eds.), Model Based Reasoning in Science and Technology. Logical, Epistemological, and Cognitive Issues. Springer Verlag. pp. 619-637 (2016)

Luca Tambolo
Università degli Studi di Trieste (PhD)
Within the debate on the inevitability versus contingency of science for which Hacking’s writings have provided the basic terminology, the devising of counterfactual histories of science is widely assumed by champions of the contingency thesis to be an effective way to challenge the inevitability thesis. However, relatively little attention has been devoted to the problem of how to defend counterfactual history of science against the criticism that it is too speculative an endeavor to be worth bothering with—the same critique traditionally levelled against the use of counterfactuals in general history. In this paper, we review the defense of counterfactuals put forward by their advocates within general history. According to such defense—which emphasizes the essential role of counterfactuals within explanations—good counterfactual scenarios need to exhibit the right kind of plausibility, characterized as continuity between said scenarios and what historians know about the world. As our discussion shows, the same requirement needs to be satisfied by good counterfactual histories of science. However, as we mention in the concluding part of the paper, there is at least one concern raised by counterfactual history of science as used to support the contingency thesis for which the defense based on the plausibility of the counterfactual scenarios does not seem to offer easy solutions.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories No categories specified
(categorize this paper)
Buy the book Find it on
DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-38983-7_35
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - University of Chicago Press.
The Social Construction of What?Ian Hacking - 1999 - Harvard University Press.
The Function of General Laws in History.Carl Gustav Hempel - 1942 - Journal of Philosophy 39 (2):35-48.
The Death of Nature.Carolyn Merchant - forthcoming - Environmental Philosophy: From Animal Rights to Radical Ecology.

View all 36 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Multiple Discoveries, Inevitability, and Scientific Realism.Luca Tambolo & Gustavo Cevolani - 2021 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 90 (December 2021):30-38.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

How Counterfactuals of Red-Queen Theory Shed Light on Science and its Historiography.Joachim L. Dagg - 2017 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 64:53-64.
How to Reject a Counterfactual.Vittorio Morato - 2017 - Logique Et Analyse 239:317-335.
The Entropy Theory of Counterfactuals.Douglas N. Kutach - 2002 - Philosophy of Science 69 (1):82-104.
Possible Uses of Counterfactual Thought Experiments in History.Alexander Maar - 2014 - Principia: An International Journal of Epistemology 18 (1):87.
Quantum Counterfactuals and Locality.Robert B. Griffiths - 2012 - Foundations of Physics 42 (5):674-684.
Armstrong on the Role of Laws in Counterfactual Supporting.Joan Pages - 1997 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 12 (2):337-342.
Historical Explanations Always Involve Counterfactual History.Cass R. Sunstein - 2016 - Journal of the Philosophy of History 10 (3):433-440.
Entropy and Counterfactual Asymmetry.Douglas Kutach - 2001 - Dissertation, Rutgers the State University of New Jersey - New Brunswick
Could Science Be Interestingly Different?Veli Virmajoki - 2018 - Journal of the Philosophy of History 12 (2):303-324.
Other Histories, Other Biologies.Gregory Radick - 2005 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 56:3-.


Added to PP index

Total views
44 ( #259,337 of 2,519,874 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
36 ( #24,120 of 2,519,874 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes