Journal Article

Scientific Realism, the Atomic Theory, and the Catch-All Hypothesis: Can We Test Fundamental Theories Against All Serious Alternatives?

P. Kyle Stanford

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 60, issue 2, pages 253-269
Published in print June 2009 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online February 2009 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Philosophy of Science
  • Science and Mathematics


Show Summary Details


Sherri Roush ([2005]) and I ([2001], [2006]) have each argued independently that the most significant challenge to scientific realism arises from our inability to consider the full range of serious alternatives to a given hypothesis we seek to test, but we diverge significantly concerning the range of cases in which this problem becomes acute. Here I argue against Roush's further suggestion that the atomic hypothesis represents a case in which scientific ingenuity has enabled us to overcome the problem, showing how her general strategy is undermined by evidence I have already offered in support of what I have called the ‘problem of unconceived alternatives’. I then go on to show why her strategy will not generally (if ever) allow us to formulate and test exhaustive spaces of hypotheses in cases of fundamental scientific theorizing.

Roush, Stanford, and Unconceived Alternatives

Perrin and Brownian Motion

Retention and Possible Alternatives: New Lessons from Some Familiar History

Whither Exhaustion?


Journal Article.  7567 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics