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
Analogy - curve
2. Freedom to adjust mathematic
3. Holism - never test hypothesis in isolation
hypotheses cannot be tested in
alternative responses always
d(t) = gt2
4. value for g
5. equation itself
But plausibility of the claim that alternatives always possible depends
on plausibility of thesis of Underdetermination
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?
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
Problems with strong underdetermination
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
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 UTD affects both local and global realism.
But it is just a speculation and for the moment the realist can sleep
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
See R Miller Fact and Method
needs novel predictions which are corroborated
plus further theoretical developments with further corroborated novel
origin of the universe ?
black holes ?
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
Van Fraassen uses a biological characterization.
Churchland queries its relevance.
See his paper in Images of
Bas van Fraassen
Douglas van Firrson
(a noted rooted arboreal philosopher with electron microscope eyes)
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
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.
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.
Challenge to Modest Realism
Explication of notion of approximation to the truth
Current theories more worthy of belief
Some components may be expect to survive
Physics as the exception
Kuhn: puzzle solving
An Alternative to truth or approximate truth?
real solution requires truth