, Volume 129, Issue 3, pp 371-380

First online:

Why The Pessimistic Induction Is A Fallacy

  • Peter J. LewisAffiliated withPhilosophy Department, University of Miami

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Putnam and Laudan separately argue that the falsity of past scientific theories gives us reason to doubt the truth of current theories. Their arguments have been highly influential, and have generated a significant literature over the past couple of decades. Most of this literature attempts to defend scientific realism by attacking the historical evidence on which the premises of the relevant argument are based. However, I argue that both Putnam's and Laudan's arguments are fallacious, and hence attacking their premises is unnecessary. The paper concludes with a discussion of the further historical evidence that would be required if the pessimistic induction is to present a serious threat to scientific realism.