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What are Empirical Consequences? On Dispensability and Composite Objects

LeBrun, Alex (2021) What are Empirical Consequences? On Dispensability and Composite Objects. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Philosophers sometimes give arguments that presuppose the following principle: two theories can fail to be empirically equivalent on the sole basis that they present different “thick” metaphysical pictures of the world. Recently, a version of this principle has been invoked to respond to the argument that composite objects are dispensable to our best scientific theories. This response claims that our empirical evidence distinguishes between ordinary and composite-free theories, and it empirically favors the ordinary ones (Hofweber, 2016, 2018). In this paper, I ask whether this response to the dispensability argument is tenable. I claim that it is not. This is because it presupposes an indefensible thesis about when two empirical consequences are distinct or the same. My argument provides some insight into what our empirical consequences are, and I conclude that empirical evidence is radically metaphysically neutral. This gives us some insight into the significant content
of our scientific theories—the content that a scientific realist is committed to—and I show how this insight relates to questions about theoretical equivalence more broadly.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
LeBrun, Alexlebrun@ucsb.edu
Additional Information: Forthcoming in Synthese
Keywords: dispensability, indispensability, composite objects, theories, equivalence,
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Structure of Theories
General Issues > Theory/Observation
Depositing User: Mr. Alex LeBrun
Date Deposited: 19 Aug 2021 13:49
Last Modified: 19 Aug 2021 13:49
Item ID: 19458
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Structure of Theories
General Issues > Theory/Observation
Date: 2021
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/19458

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