Underdetermination in Science: What It Is and Why We Should Care

Philosophy Compass 13 (2):e12475 (2018)
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The underdetermination of scientific theory choice by evidence is a familiar but multifaceted concept in the philosophy of science. I answer two pressing questions about underdetermination: “What is underdetermination?” and “Why should we care about underdetermination?” To answer the first question, I provide a general definition of underdetermination, identify four forms of underdetermination, and discuss major criticisms of each form. To answer the second question, I then survey two common uses of underdetermination in broader arguments against scientific realism and in support of the use of values in scientific theory choice. I conclude that philosophers should also care about underdetermination because it impacts scientists in their practice.



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Margaret Greta Turnbull
Gonzaga University

References found in this work

Two Dogmas of Empiricism.Willard V. O. Quine - 1951 - Philosophical Review 60 (1):20–43.
The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory.Pierre Duhem & Philip P. Wiener - 1955 - Science and Society 19 (1):85-87.
Two Dogmas of Empiricism Symposium.W. V. Quine - 1951 - Philosophical Review 60:20.

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