Expanding Our Grasp: Causal Knowledge and the Problem of Unconceived Alternatives

Matthias Egg
2014 British Journal for the Philosophy of Science  
I argue that scientific realism, insofar as it is only committed to those scientific posits of which we have causal knowledge, is immune to Kyle Stanford's argument from unconceived alternatives. This causal strategy (previously introduced, but not worked out in detail, by Anjan Chakravartty) is shown not to repeat the shortcomings of previous realist responses to Stanford's argument. Furthermore, I show that the notion of causal knowledge underlying it can be made sufficiently precise by means
more » ... ly precise by means of conceptual tools recently introduced into the debate on scientific realism. Finally, I apply this strategy to the case of Jean Perrin's experimental work on the atomic hypothesis, disputing Stanford's claim that the problem of unconceived alternatives invalidates a realist interpretation of this historical episode.
doi:10.1093/bjps/axu025 fatcat:m2kemfouqjdincnwk7jm6vtxau