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Should scientific realists embrace theoretical conservatism?

Dellsén, Finnur (2018) Should scientific realists embrace theoretical conservatism? [Preprint]

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Abstract

A prominent type of scientific realism holds that some important parts of our best current scientific theories are at least approximately true. According to such realists, radically distinct alternatives to these theories or theory-parts are unlikely to be approximately true. Thus one might be tempted to argue, as the prominent anti-realist Kyle Stanford recently did, that realists of this kind have little or no reason to encourage scientists to attempt to identify and develop theoretical alternatives that are radically distinct from currently accepted theories in the relevant respects. In other words, it may seem that realists should recommend that scientists be relatively conservative in their theoretical endeavors. This paper aims to show that this argument is mistaken. While realists should indeed be less optimistic of finding radically distinct alternatives to replace current theories, realists also have greater reasons to value the outcomes of such searches. Interestingly, this holds both for successful and failed attempts to identify and develop such alternatives.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Dellsén, Finnurfinnurd@gmail.com0000-0003-4989-4204
Additional Information: Forthcoming in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science (special issue on Scientific Novelty)
Keywords: theoretical conservatism; scientific realism; unconceived alternatives; radical theory change
Subjects: General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Science and Policy
General Issues > Theory Change
Depositing User: Dr. Finnur Dellsén
Date Deposited: 25 Sep 2018 15:16
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2018 15:16
Item ID: 15055
Journal or Publication Title: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A
Official URL: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.shpsa.2018.09.005
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1016/j.shpsa.2018.09.005
Subjects: General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Science and Policy
General Issues > Theory Change
Date: 2018
ISSN: 00393681
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/15055

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