Article ID: CBB000830397

Breaking the Ties: Epistemic Significance, Bacilli, and Underdetermination (2007)


One premise of the underdetermination argument is that entailment of evidence is the only epistemic constraint on theory-choice. I argue that methodological rules can be epistemically significant, both with respect to observables and unobservables. Using an example from the history of medicine---Koch's 1882 discovery of tuberculosis bacteria---I argue that even anti-realists ought to accept that these rules can break the tie between theories that are allegedly underdetermined. I then distinguish two types of underdetermination and argue that anti-realists, in order to maintain the underdetermination argument, need to do more than show that theories are empirically equivalent: they need to show that a certain kind of underdetermination obtains.


Description Using the example of Koch's 1882 discovery of tuberculosis bacteria, discusses the nature of underdetermination in theory choice.

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Authors & Contributors
Gradmann, Christoph
Martin Schneider
Thomas Goetz
Shelley, Cameron
Schlich, Thomas
Pelling, Margaret
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
NTM: Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Technik und Medizin
Naturwissenschaftliche Rundschau
Medizinhistorisches Journal
História, Ciências, Saúde---Manguinhos
Histoire des Sciences Médicales
World Scientific
Wallstein Verlag
University of Rochester Press
Rowman & Littlefield
Oxford University Press
Disease and diseases
Discovery in medicine
Explanation; hypotheses; theories
Koch, Robert
Pasteur, Louis
Löffler, Friedrich
Waksman, Selman Abraham
Virchow, Rudolf Carl
Ehrlich, Paul
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
21st century
20th century, late
20th century, early
United States
Warsaw (Poland)
London (England)
Prussia (Germany)
Latin America

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