A conceptual problem for Stanford’s New Induction
The problem of unconceived alternatives (or the New Induction) states that, since scientists have recurrently failed to conceive relevant theoretical alternatives for some domains of science, current scientists are probably also failing to do so. Therefore, there may be theories which still exceed the grasp of scientists’ imagination, and one should not endorse a realist stance towards current science. In this paper, I raise a conceptual worry for the formulation of this problem: what does it mean to say that scientists failed to conceive a relevant theory? What aggravates the problem is that no simple notion of relevance makes the New Induction as strong as it initially seems. I consider the three more obvious interpretations of relevance: relevance as objective probability; relevance as epistemic probability assessed by current scientists; and relevance as epistemic probability assessed by past scientists. I argue that assuming any of these three notions implies difficulties for the New Induction, hence their proponents shouldn’t take the notion of relevance for granted. A more precise definition of relevance is essential to understand what are the difficulties surrounding the problem of unconceived alternatives as an epistemic worry. Until now, such notion is missing.
KeyWords: Scientific realism, unconceived alternatives, Kyle Stanford, New Induction, Pessimistic Induction.
Copyright (c) 2021 Filosofia Unisinos
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
I grant the Filosofia Unisinos – Unisinos Journal of Philosophy the first publication of my article, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution license 4.0 (which allows sharing of work, recognition of authorship and initial publication in this journal).
I confirm that my article is not being submitted to another publication and has not been published in its entirely on another journal. I take full responsibility for its originality and I will also claim responsibility for charges from claims by third parties concerning the authorship of the article.