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Theoretical Fertility McMullin-style

Schindler, Samuel (2017) Theoretical Fertility McMullin-style. European Journal for Philosophy of Science, 7 (1). pp. 151-173. ISSN 1879-4912

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Abstract

A theory’s fertility is one of the standard theoretical virtues. But how is it to be construed? In current philosophical discourse, particularly in the realism debate, theoretical fertility is usually understood in terms of novel success: a theory is fertile if it manages to make successful novel predictions. Another, more permissible, notion of fertility can be found in the work of Ernan McMullin. This kind of fertility, McMullin claims, gives us just as strong (or even stronger) grounds for realism. My paper critically assesses McMullin’s notion of fertility and its realist rationale. It concludes that McMullin’s preferred example, namely the fertile development of the Bohr-Sommerfeld model of the atom, does not support McMullin’s argument for realism. Although the implications for the realism debate are as of yet unclear, the case study offers some important methodological lessons.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Schindler, Samuelsamuel.schindler@css.au.dk
Keywords: Theoretical fertility; Theoretical virtue; Novel success; Realism; Idealization; Positive heuristics; Bohr-Sommerfeld model
Subjects: General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Models and Idealization
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Theory Change
General Issues > Values In Science
Depositing User: Samuel Schindler
Date Deposited: 09 Feb 2017 23:01
Last Modified: 09 Feb 2017 23:16
Item ID: 12813
Journal or Publication Title: European Journal for Philosophy of Science
Publisher: Springer
Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s13194-016-0150-4
DOI or Unique Handle: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13194-016-0150-4
Subjects: General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Models and Idealization
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Theory Change
General Issues > Values In Science
Date: January 2017
Page Range: pp. 151-173
Volume: 7
Number: 1
ISSN: 1879-4912
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/12813

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