MAPS: Theory Underdetermination and Structural Realism (12/08/2021)

Talk by Kevin Coffey (NYU)

Abstact: The threat of theory underdetermination remains an oft-cited challenge to scientific realism. Why think belief in a particular theory is justified if there are (or likely are) alternative theories equally adequate to the empirical data? In recent years, some philosophers have argued that one particular form of realism—structural realism—is uniquely situated to defuse this threat, going so far as to use considerations of underdetermination as a positive reason to adopt structural realism over competing forms of realism. In this talk I’ll explore the adequacy of these arguments, and the relationship between underdetermination and structural realism more generally. I’ll argue that, far from undermining the underdetermination argument, structural realism is in fact more susceptible to underdetermination concerns than other forms of scientific realism.

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