Troubles with Theoretical Virtues: Resisting Theoretical Utility Arguments in Metaphysics

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 101 (2):456-469 (2020)
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In this paper we examine theoretical utility arguments in metaphysics. While philosophers claim a procedural continuity with science when using such arguments, we argue that examining famous instances from the history of science expose their fundamental flaws. We find that arguments from theoretical utility invoke considerations that are not truth conducive and that justifications for claims that a theory possesses theoretical virtues often assume the truth of the theory such virtues are supposed to support. We conclude that theoretical utility arguments provide no epistemic grounds for metaphysical inquiry.



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Scott Shalkowski
University of Leeds

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