Authors
Samuel Schindler
Aarhus University
Abstract
A theory’s fertility is one of the standard theoretical virtues. But how is it to be construed? In current philosophical discourse, particularly in the realism debate, theoretical fertility is usually understood in terms of novel success: a theory is fertile if it manages to make successful novel predictions. Another, more permissible, notion of fertility can be found in the work of Ernan McMullin. This kind of fertility, McMullin claims, gives us just as strong grounds for realism. My paper critically assesses McMullin’s notion of fertility and its realist rationale. It concludes that McMullin’s preferred example, namely the fertile development of the Bohr-Sommerfeld model of the atom, does not support McMullin’s argument for realism. Although the implications for the realism debate are as of yet unclear, the case study offers some important methodological lessons.
Keywords Theoretical fertility  Theoretical virtue  Novel success  Realism  Idealization  Positive heuristics  Bohr-Sommerfeld model
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DOI 10.1007/s13194-016-0150-4
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References found in this work BETA

How the Laws of Physics Lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
A Confutation of Convergent Realism.Larry Laudan - 1981 - Philosophy of Science 48 (1):19-49.

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Citations of this work BETA

What We (Should) Talk About When We Talk About Fruitfulness.Silvia Ivani - 2018 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 9 (1):1-18.
What We (Should) Talk About When We Talk About Fruitfulness.Silvia Ivani - 2018 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 9 (1):4.

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