Journal Article

Reckoning the Shape of Everything: Underdetermination and Cosmotopology

P. D. Magnus

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 56, issue 3, pages 541-557
Published in print September 2005 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online July 2005 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
Reckoning the Shape of Everything: Underdetermination and Cosmotopology

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This paper offers a general characterization of underdetermination and gives a prima facie case for the underdetermination of the topology of the universe. A survey of several philosophical approaches to the problem fails to resolve the issue: the case involves the possibility of massive reduplication, but Strawson on massive reduplication provides no help here; it is not obvious that any of the rival theories are to be preferred on grounds of simplicity; and the usual talk of empirically equivalent theories misses the point entirely. (If the choice is underdetermined, then the theories are not empirically equivalent!) Yet the thought experiment is analogous to a live scientific possibility, and actual astronomy faces underdetermination of this kind. This paper concludes by suggesting how the matter can be resolved, either by localizing the underdetermination or by defeating it entirely.


A brief preliminary

Around the universe in 80 days

Some attempts at resolving the problem

4.1 Indexicality

4.2 Simplicity

4.3 Empirical equivalence

4.4 Is this just a philosophers' fantasy?

Move along…

…nothing to see here

6.1 Rules of repetition

6.2 Some possible replies


Journal Article.  6580 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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