Existing challenges to Scientific Realism [the position that our scientific theories should be understood as (at least approximately) true descriptions of the inaccessible domains of nature] have made extensive use of either the claim of the "Underdetermination of Theories by Evidence" (i.e. that our evidence is invariably insufficient to favor existing theories over alternative possibilities equally well confirmed by that very evidence) or of the "Pessimistic Induction" over the many past scientific theories that have turned out to be false despite exhibiting the same evidential and practical virtues that we might take to confirm present theories. Dr. Stanford proposes to challenge the framework of the existing debate and to pursue a new defense of Antirealism by developing the following line of argument in a series of connected papers forming the core of a future book.

First, Dr. Stanford argues that it is a mistake for existing discussions of underdetermination to focus almost exclusively on the existence and status of putative "empirical equivalents" to existing theories: popular algorithms for generating such equivalents simply trade in the problem of underdetermination for familiar philosophical chestnuts (in particular, Cartesian skepticism or the problem of spurious confirmation), while the few convincing examples of empirical equivalents simply will not support the intoxicating morals that champions of underdetermination have hoped to draw. Stanford argues, however, that Realism is no less threatened by the prospect of empirically inequivalent hypotheses that are nonetheless equally well-confirmed by all the actual evidence we have in hand as are existing theories, so long as such a transient underdetermination predicament recurs for each theory and body of evidence we consider. Furthermore, he appeals to a New Induction on the History of Science to argue that this predicament of recurrent, transient underdetermination is our own. Rather than simply pointing to the falsity of past successful theories, the New Induction points out that we have, throughout the history of scientific inquiry and in virtually every scientific field, repeatedly occupied an epistemic position in which we could conceive of only one or a few theories that were well-confirmed by the available evidence, while subsequent inquiry has routinely revealed the existence of further theories just as well confirmed by the totality of evidence then available as were those we accepted on the strength of that very evidence. He defends this New Induction against potential objections and argue that the distinctively holist claim of underdetermination influential in the science studies literature is best seen as supporting a version of this same New Induction. Finally, Dr. Stanford defends both the New Induction and the original Pessimistic Induction against the recently influential Realist reading of the history of science which finds the true features or aspects of past theories to be those responsible for their success, arguing in reply that this match is virtually guaranteed by the fact that the Realist appeals to a common point of reference (our current theoretical beliefs) in judging both what a past successful theory got right and what features were responsible for its success.

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Bruce E. Seely
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University of California Irvine
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