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Philosophy - Epistemology & Philosophy of Science | Underdetermination - An Essay on Evidence and the Limits of Natural Knowledge


An Essay on Evidence and the Limits of Natural Knowledge

Bonk, Thomas


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  • Readable introduction to the controversy
  • Balanced analysis
  • Important topic in philosophy of science
  • Up-to-date, timely

Underdetermination. An Essay on Evidence and the Limits of Natural Knowledge is a wide-ranging study of the thesis that scientific theories are systematically "underdetermined" by the data they account for. This much-debated thesis is a thorn in the side of scientific realists and methodologists of science alike and of late has been vigorously attacked. After analyzing the epistemological and ontological ascpects of the controversy in detail, and reviewing pertinent logical facts and selected scientific cases, Bonk carefully examines the merits of arguments for and against the thesis. Along the way, he investigates methodological proposals and recent theories of confirmation, which promise to discriminate among observationally equivalent theories on evidential grounds. He explores sympathetically but critically W.V.Quine and H.Putnam’s arguments for the thesis, the relationship between indeterminacy and underdetermination, and possibilities for a conventionalist solution. This book is of interest to anyone working in philosophy of science, and to those interested in the philosophy of Quine.

Content Level » Research

Keywords » Confirmation - Philosophy of Quine - Scientific Realism - constructivism - science - underdetermination

Related subjects » Epistemology & Philosophy of Science

Table of contents 

1 A Humean Predicament? 1.1. Aspects of Underdetermination 1.2. Significance of the Thesis 1.3. Quine, Realism, and Underdetermination 1.4. No quick solutions 1.5. Three responses and strategies 2 Underdetermination Issues in the Exact Sciences 2.1. Logical Equivalence, Interdefinability, and Isomorphism 2.2. Theorems of Ramsey and Craig 2.3. From Denotational Vagueness to Ontological Relativity 2.4. Semantic Arguments 2.5. Physical Equivalence 2.6. Underdetermination of Geometry 3 Rationality, Method, and Evidence 3.1. Deductivism Revisited 3.2. Quine on Method and Evidence 3.3. Instance Confirmation and Bootstrapping 3.4. Demonstrative Induction 3.5. Underdetermination and Inter-theory Relations 4 Competing Truths 4.1. Constructivism 4.2. Things versus Numbers 4.3. Squares, Balls, Lines, and Points 4.4. Algorithms 5 Problems of Representation 5.1. Ambiguity 5.2. Conventionalism: Local 5.3. Conventionalism: Global 5.4. Verificationism and Fictionalism 6 Underdetermination and Indeterminacy 6.1. Underdetermination of Translation 6.2. Indeterminacy versus Underdetermination 6.3. Empirical Investigation of Cognitive Meaning 6.4. Indeterminacy and the Absence of Fact 6.5. Quine’s Pragmatic Interpretation of Underdetermination Bibliography Index

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