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Scientific Theory Eliminativism

Vickers, P.

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The philosopher of science faces overwhelming disagreement in the literature on the definition, nature, structure, ontology, and content of scientific theories. These disagreements are at least partly responsible for disagreements in many of the debates in the discipline which put weight on the concept *scientific theory*. I argue that available theories of theories and conceptual analyses of *theory* are ineffectual options for addressing this difficulty: they do not move debates forward in a significant way. Directing my attention to debates about the properties of particular, named theories, I introduce ‘theory eliminativism’ as a certain type of debate-reformulation. As a methodological tool it has the potential to be a highly effective way to make progress in the face of the noted problem: post-reformulation disagreements about *theory* cannot compromise the debate, and the questions that really matter can still be asked and answered. In addition the reformulation process demands that philosophers engage with science and the history of science in a more serious way than is usual in order to answer important questions about the justification for targeting a particular set of propositions (say) in a given context. All things considered, we should expect the benefits of a theory-eliminating debate-reformulation to heavily outweigh the costs for a highly significant number of debates of the relevant type.


Vickers, P. (2014). Scientific Theory Eliminativism. Erkenntnis, 79(1), 111-126.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 2, 2013
Online Publication Date Mar 11, 2013
Publication Date Feb 1, 2014
Deposit Date Mar 19, 2013
Publicly Available Date Mar 14, 2014
Journal Erkenntnis
Print ISSN 0165-0106
Electronic ISSN 1572-8420
Publisher Springer
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 79
Issue 1
Pages 111-126
Public URL


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