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How to Be a Historically Motivated Antirealist: The Problem of Misleading Evidence

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022

Abstract

The Pessimistic Induction over the history of science argues that because most past theories judged empirically successful in their time are not even approximately true, most present ones probably are not approximately true either. But why did past scientists accept those incorrect theories? Kyle Stanford’s Problem of Unconceived Alternatives is one answer to that question: scientists are bad at exhausting the space of plausible hypotheses to explain the available evidence. Here, I offer another answer: the Problem of Misleading Evidence. I argue that this proposal enjoys some advantages over Stanford’s, although both are probably needed to explain the historical record.

Type
Realism
Copyright
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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Footnotes

Many people have helped me articulate, develop, and defend the ideas presented here. Audiences at the 2018 PSA, the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Philosophy of Science in ruary 2017, and the 2015 Congress on Logic, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science meeting were generous with their constructive criticism. I benefited especially from detailed discussions with Liam Bright, Anjan Chakravartty, Haixin Dang, Peter Lewis, P. D. Magnus, Aaron Novick, Sam Ruhmskorff, and Kyle Stanford.

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