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Exceeding Our GraspScience, History, and the Problem of Unconceived Alternatives$
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P. Kyle Stanford

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195174083

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2006

DOI: 10.1093/0195174089.001.0001

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 History Revisited

 History Revisited

Pyrrhic Victories for Scientific Realism

(p.141) 6 History Revisited
Exceeding Our Grasp

P. Kyle Stanford (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the most influential recent efforts by scientific realists to blunt or block the pessimistic induction by engaging the details of the history of science itself, including the first serious efforts to recruit those details to the realist cause. It argues that the most promising and influential realist replies to the historical challenge (including those of Clyde Hardin and Alexander Rosenberg, Philip Kitcher, Stathis Psillos, Jarrett Leplin, and John Worrall) ultimately manage to achieve only Pyrrhic victories for realism, that is, “defences” of scientific realism that are forced to concede to the realist's opponent either just the substantive points that were in dispute between them or everything he/she needs for a convincing historical case against realism itself. Both the problem of unconceived alternatives and the pessimistic induction itself survive even the best recent efforts to defend realism from the specter of the historical record.

Keywords:   Laudan, pessimistic induction, history of science, selective confirmation, unconceived alternatives

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