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On Ad Hoc Hypotheses

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022

Abstract

In this article I review attempts to define the term “ad hoc hypothesis,” focusing on the efforts of, among others, Karl Popper, Jarrett Leplin, and Gerald Holton. I conclude that the term is unhelpful; what is “ad hoc” seems to be a judgment made by particular scientists not on the basis of any well-established definition but rather on their individual aesthetic senses. Further, a hypothesis considered ad hoc can apparently be retroactively declared non–ad hoc on the basis of subsequent data, rendering the term meaningless.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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Footnotes

I would like to thank three anonymous referees for their comments on this manuscript, revision of which was supported by Prince George's Community College's sabbatical program. Many thanks to Richard Burian, Richard Hirsh, Barbara Reeves, Steve Weiss, and Eric Saidel on earlier versions of the work. Special thanks to Joseph C. Pitt for all his helpful feedback and support. Thanks also to Spencer Weart and George Gale for permission to quote from unpublished sources they control and to Jefferson Sauter for a timely favor during the proofing process.

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