Kuhnian theory-choice, the GWS model, and the neutral current

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Schindler, Samuel
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In the Kuhnian view of theory choice, theories, as a matter of empirical fact, often score differently well with regard to the standard theoretical virtues. The case I discuss in this paper, however, is a case in which there was one theory which was more virtuous than all its competitors. In such cases practitioners’ disparate weighting preferences, which Kuhn is so keen to emphasise, make no difference to theory choice: practitioners’ choices will converge on one theory despite their different weighting preferences. The case I discuss in this paper concerns the Glashow-Weinberg-Salam (GWS) model of electroweak interactions in the early 1970s. After considering the contemporary experimental evidence in its favour in detail, I argue that the GWS model was chosen not because the evidence in its favour was compelling, but rather because its virtues exceeded those of its competitors.