No Refuge for Realism: Selective Confirmation and the History of Science

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Stanford, P. Kyle
preprint description
Realists respond to Laudan's Pessimistic Induction with what I call the selective confirmation strategy: arguing that only idle parts of past theories have been rejected, while truly success-generating features have been confirmed by further inquiry. I argue first that this strategy is unconvincing without some prospectively applicable criterion of idleness for theoretical posits, and second, that existing efforts to provide one either convict all theoretical posits of idleness (Kitcher) or stand refuted by detailed consideration of the very examples (optical/electromagnetic ether, caloric fluid) to which they appeal (Psillos). Additionally, available avenues for improving on these proposals are unpromising.