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

By Matthias Egg


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 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

Topics: 100 Philosophy, 120 Epistemology
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year: 2016
DOI identifier: 10.1093/bjps
OAI identifier:

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