From the Pessimistic Induction to Semantic Anti-realism

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Frost-Arnold, Greg
conference paper description
The Pessimistic Induction (PI) is the following argument: most of our past scientific theories have been radically mistaken; therefore, our current theories are probably similarly mistaken. But mistaken in what way? On the usual interpretation of the PI, our past theories are false -- and therefore, our present ones are probably also false. I argue instead that, on widely-held semantic views about reference, presupposition, and ‘open texture’ concepts, many theoretical claims of previous scientific theories are neither true nor false. And if substantial chunks of our past theories lack truth-values, then the upshot of the PI is semantic anti-realism. But most philosophers of science today consider semantic anti-realism unacceptable. So PI proponents face an unpalatable choice: accept either semantic anti-realism, or a substantial, unorthodox semantic position.