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Underdetermination, Realism and Empirical Equivalence

Worrall, John (2009) Underdetermination, Realism and Empirical Equivalence. In: [2008] Theoretical Frameworks and Empirical Underdetermination Workshop (Düsseldorf April 10-12, 2008).

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    Abstract

    Are theories ‘underdetermined by the evidence’ in any way that should worry the scientific realist? I argue that no convincing reason has been given for thinking so. A crucial distinction is drawn between data equivalence and empirical equivalence. Duhem showed that it is always possible to produce a data equivalent rival to any accepted scientific theory. But there is no reason to regard such a rival as equally well empirically supported and hence no threat to realism. Two theories are empirically equivalent if they share all consequences expressed in purely observational vocabulary. This is a much stronger requirement than has hitherto been recognised – two such ‘rival’ theories must in fact agree on many claims that are clearly theoretical in nature. Given this, it is unclear how much of an impact on realism a demonstration that there is always an empirically equivalent ‘rival’ to any accepted theory would have – even if such a demonstration could be produced. Certainly in the case of the version of realism that I defend – structural realism – such a demonstration would have precisely no impact: two empirically equivalent theories are, according to structural realism, cognitively indistinguishable.


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    Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
    Keywords: underdetermination, empirical equivalence, data equivalence, structural realism.
    Subjects: General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
    General Issues > Theory Change
    General Issues > Theory/Observation
    General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
    General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
    Conferences and Volumes: [2008] Theoretical Frameworks and Empirical Underdetermination Workshop (Düsseldorf April 10-12, 2008)
    Depositing User: Ioannis Votsis
    Date Deposited: 28 May 2009
    Last Modified: 07 Oct 2010 11:18
    Item ID: 4664
    URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/4664

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