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Seminar on History and Philosophy of Science

Friday, April 22, 2016
4:00pm to 5:00pm
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Dabney Hall 110 (Treasure Room)
Assessing Scientific Theories
Stephan Hartmann, Professor of Philosophy of Science and Alexander von Humboldt Professor, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich,

Scientific theories are usually assessed in the light of their empirical consequences. But how shall one proceed if a theory, such as String Theory, has no empirical consequences (yet)? Are such theories scientific at all? In this context, several physicists made what has been called a no-alternatives argument. It goes as follows:

P1: A theory T satisfies a number of desirable conditions.

P2: Despite a lot of effort, the scientific community did not succeed in finding an alternative to T that also satisfies these conditions.

(Hence,) C: It is now more probably that T is empirically adequate. 

It is the goal of this talk to analyze this argument structure in the framework of Bayesian confirmation theory and to ask under which conditions no-alternatives arguments work. 

The talk is based on the paper R. Dawid, S. Hartmann, and J. Sprenger: The No Alternatives Argument, The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. 66(1): 213-234 (2015). URL:

For more information, please contact Fran Tise by phone at 626-395-3609 or by email at [email protected].