Updated:  03 March 2000

 

 

UTD - strong thesis

 

    For any theory T1 there is another theory T2 such that:

 

    1.     T1, T2 logically incompatible.

 

    2.     T1, T2 empirically equivalent.

 

    3.     T1, T2 do equally well in terms of any epistemically viable principle of theory choice.

 

strong thesis makes IBE problematic

1.

 

 

 

Why believe in UTD ?

 

1.         Analogy - curve plotting

 

2.  Freedom to adjust mathematic structure

 

 

3. Holism - never test hypothesis in isolation

2.

 


Holism

    hypotheses cannot be tested in isolation.

 

    alternative responses always possible

 

 

    d(t) = gt2

 

    1.     clock

 

    2.     ruler

 

    3.     observer

 

    4.     value for g

 

    5.     equation itself

 

But plausibility of the claim that alternatives always possible depends on plausibility  of thesis of Underdetermination

3.

 

A couple of asides :

 

1. Popper :

 

 

    In the case of an apparent falsification, how does Popper know what to blame ?

 

    Could it be that he inductively infers that observers have let him down in the past and hence are not to be trusted on this occasion?   Or that the value of g is ok because the methods used for determining g have been particularly reliable in the past?

4.

 


2. Edinburgh

 

strong programme in the sociology of scientific knowledge

 

Assume only undetermination by actual data. 

 

Scientists regularly make choices in this situation.  Choice cannot be explained rationally (after all this is underdetermination). So explanation must lie in social factors and/or pyschological ones.

 

 

 

    Role of so-called “pragmatic factors” such as simplicity

 

    Role of judgment

5.


Problems with strong underdetermination

 

Notational variants

 

Absence of examples ?

(no Nobel prizes for second theory)

(density vs continuity)

 

Speculative Idea ??

inadequate basis for an approach to science

 

If at best there are limited examples, then at worst realism must be constrained

6.


Instrumentalism as fictionalism

 

 

“the easy way to Underdetermination”

 

 

T1: There are electrons and ...

 

T2: There are no electrons but everything happens as if T1 were true.

 

 

For the realist T2 self-destructs

 

Realism is exciting because it takes risks: could be falsified by strong underdetermination

 

Strong UTD affects both local and global realism.

 

But it is just a speculation and for the moment the realist can sleep easily.

7.

 

 

 

Why not then use IBE to argue for realism locally ?

 

Look at your actual history

 

Mach : talk of atoms is a useful device to facilitate predictions

 

Einstein: atoms really exist, posited to explain Brownian motion

 

Ostwald 1905 Preface

    the atomic theory is a device, not to be taken literally

 

Ostwald 1915 Preface

    atomic hypothesis is true

 

Einstein - calculated rate of diffusion

 

Perrin - produced latex particles of known size and shape confirming Einstein

See R Miller Fact and Method

8.

 

 

 

Realism

 

 

needs novel predictions which are corroborated

 

plus further theoretical developments with further corroborated novel predictions

 

Cautious realism

 

origin of the universe ?

 

black holes ?

9.

 

   


Instrumentalist

 

 

Different stance to theoretical discourse.

 

 

Common assumption with realist:

      realism about medium sized macroscopic objects and use of IBE at that level

 

 

Instrumentalist has to characterize the realm of discourse to which a different stance is taken.

 

 

Characterization of that realm must rationalize the difference in treatment.

10.

 


 

Van Fraassen uses a biological characterization.

 

 

Churchland queries its relevance.

 

 

See his paper in Images of Science

 

 

Bas van Fraassen

 

 

Douglas van Firrson

(a noted rooted arboreal philosopher with electron microscope eyes)

11.

 

 

 

Why assume that UTD begins at the non-observable as defined by van Fraassen?

 

Maybe there is only one story until you reach the level of the quark.

 

 

electron - via quarks

 

electron - via krauqs

12.


 

 

Where (if anywhere) UTD begins, instrumentalism may be appropriate.

 

 

No reason to think that the point at which underdetermination begins is the point at which we are dealing with non-observables.

 

 

No reason to drop IBE when we pass over the O/non-O border.

 

 

Drop when Underdetermination starts.

13.

 

 

 

Modest Realism

 

Seamless web argument.

 

 

      No dichotomy between ordinary and scientific discourse.  So some reason must be given for thinking that as we move away from ordinary discourse the tools we use there become inappropriate.

 

 

      UTD right sort of reason but does not appear extensive enough to really worry the realist.

14.


 

 

Challenge to Modest Realism

 

 

Explication of notion of approximation to the truth

 

 

An Alternative

 

 

Current theories more worthy of belief

 

 

Some components may be expect to survive

 

 

Physics as the exception

15.


 

 

Kuhn: puzzle solving

 

 

An Alternative to truth or approximate truth?

 

 

empirical problems

 

 

theoretical problems

 

 

real solution requires truth

16.