•  65
    In Defense of Best-Explanation Debunking Arguments in Moral Philosophy
    with Derek Leben
    Review of Philosophy and Psychology 9 (1): 143-160. 2018.
    We aim to develop a form of debunking argument according to which an agent’s belief is undermined if the reasons she gives in support of her belief are best explained as rationalizations. This approach is a more sophisticated form of what Shaun Nichols has called best-explanation debunking, which he contrasts with process debunking, i.e., debunking by means of showing that a belief has been generated by an epistemically defective process. In order to develop our approach, we identify an example …Read more
  •  18
    When scientists put forward hypotheses, they sometimes involve new kinds of entities, which we can call 'hypothetical entities.' Hypothetical entities are pervasive in the sciences, and some examples include caloric and, up until very recently, the Higgs boson. Some hypothetical entities are discovered, as was the case with the Higgs boson, while scientists conclude that others, like caloric, do not exist. Hypothetical entities pose a number of important challenges for the philosophy of science,…Read more
  •  18
    A number of prominent defenders of the phlogiston theory identified phlogiston with hydrogen in the late eighteenth century, and I argue that this identification was fairly well-entrenched by the early nineteenth century. In light of this identification, I examine the ways in which retaining phlogiston could have retarded scientific progress, and also the ways in which it could have benefited science. I argue that it was rational for chemists to eliminate phlogiston, but that it also would have …Read more
  •  17
    This paper aims to defend the use of the notion of experimental individuation, which has recently been developed by Ruey-Lin Chen, as a criterion for the reality of theoretical entities. In short, when scientists experimentally individuate an entity, a realist conclusion about that entity is warranted. We embed this claim regarding experimental individuation within a framework that allows for other criteria of reality. And we understand so-called retail arguments regarding the reality of a parti…Read more
  •  16
    Brain Networks, Structural Realism, and Local Approaches to the Scientific Realism Debate
    with Karen Yan
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 64 1-10. 2017.
    We examine recent work in cognitive neuroscience that investigates brain networks. Brain networks are characterized by the ways in which brain regions are functionally and anatomically connected to one another. Cognitive neuroscientists use various noninvasive techniques (e.g., fMRI) to investigate these networks. They represent them formally as graphs. And they use various graph theoretic techniques to analyze them further. We distinguish between knowledge of the graph theoretic structure of su…Read more
  •  16
    Scientific realists are committed to the claim that scientific discourse should be interpreted realistically, so that theoretical terms are understood as putatively referring expressions that have putative reference to empirical entities. In order to argue against realistic interpretation, I draw on an episode from the history of chemistry. One of the hypothetical entities of late 18th century chemistry was the muriatic radical, a hitherto unknown element that was thought to be a constituent of …Read more
  •  15
    Understanding the semantics of theoretical terms from past science involves determining what, if anything, they referred to. Some ways of assigning referents to such terms are Whiggish, in the sense that they introduce anachronisms that distort the past, while others are not. My aim in this paper is to develop a non-Whiggish semantic theory, one that avoids Whiggish reference assignments. In order to do so, I make use of the example of 'phlogiston.' I argue that it would be Whiggish to maintain …Read more
  •  15
    According to retail realism, we ought to abandon wholesale arguments, which purport to demonstrate realism or anti-realism about theoretical entities in general, and embrace retail arguments, which purport to demonstrate realism or anti-realism about specific kinds of theoretical entities. My aim is to argue that there is a further wholesale element that retail realism must avoid in order to qualify as a viable position. In order to do so, I distinguish between what I call wholesale and retail t…Read more
  •  9
    Magnus and Callender argue that we ought to focus on retail arguments, which are arguments regarding the existence of particular kinds of theoretical entities, as opposed to theoretical entities in general. However, scientists are the ones who put forward retail arguments, and it’s unclear how philosophers can engage with such arguments. We argue that philosophers can engage with retail arguments by providing criteria that they must satisfy in order to demonstrate the existence of theoretical en…Read more
  •  9
    Retail Realism, the Individuation of Theoretical Entities, and the Case of the Muriatic Radical
    In Otávio Bueno, Ruey-Lin Chen & Melinda Bonnie Fagan (eds.), Individuation, Process, and Scientific Practices, Oxford University Press. 2018.
    Retail realists advocate abandoning wholesale arguments, which concern the reality of theoretical entities in general, and embracing retail arguments, which concern the reality of particular kinds of theoretical entities. They can thus be realists about some and anti-realists about others. But realism about a kind of entity can take different forms depending on how retail realists individuate kinds of entities. This chapter introduces the notion of the inclusiveness of individuation: the more in…Read more
  •  7
    Scientific Rationality: Phlogiston as a Case Study
    In Timothy Joseph Lane & Tzu-Wei Hung (eds.), Rationality: Constraints and Contexts. pp. 37-59. 2017.
    I argue that it was rational for chemists to eliminate phlogiston, but that it also would have been rational for them to retain it. I do so on the grounds that a number of prominent phlogiston theorists identified phlogiston with hydrogen in the late 18th century, and this identification became fairly well entrenched by the early 19th century. In light of this identification, I critically evaluate Hasok Chang’s argument that chemists should have retained phlogiston, and that doing so would have …Read more