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On Under-determination in Cosmology

Butterfield, Jeremy (2012) On Under-determination in Cosmology. [Preprint]

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I discuss how modern cosmology illustrates under-determination of theoretical hypotheses by data, in ways that are different from most philosophical discussions. I emphasize cosmology's concern with what data could in principle be collected by a single observer (Section 2); and I give a broadly sceptical discussion of cosmology’s appeal to the cosmological principle as a way of breaking the under-determination (Section 3).

I confine most of the discussion to the history of the observable universe from about one second after the Big Bang, as described by the mainstream cosmological model: in effect, what cosmologists in the early 1970s dubbed the ‘standard model’, as elaborated since then. But in the closing Section 4, I broach some questions about times earlier than one second.

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Item Type: Preprint
Additional Information: Submitted to Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, on 2 February 2012.
Keywords: under-determination, the standard model of cosmology, observationally indistinguishable spacetimes, the cosmological principle, the flatness problem, the horizon problem
Subjects: General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
Specific Sciences > Physics > Cosmology
Specific Sciences > Physics
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
Depositing User: Jeremy Butterfield
Date Deposited: 10 Jun 2012 12:52
Last Modified: 06 Jul 2013 15:37
Item ID: 9157

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