, Volume 78, Issue 5, pp 1109–1132 | Cite as

Theory Choice, Good Sense and Social Consensus

  • Milena Ivanova
  • Cedric Paternotte
Original Article


There has been a significant interest in the recent literature in developing a solution to the problem of theory choice which is both normative and descriptive, but agent-based rather than rule-based, originating from Pierre Duhem’s notion of ‘good sense’. In this paper we present the properties Duhem attributes to good sense in different contexts, before examining its current reconstructions advanced in the literature and their limitations. We propose an alternative account of good sense, seen as promoting social consensus in science, and show that it is superior to its rivals in two respects: it is more faithful to Duhemian good sense, and it cashes out the effect that virtues have on scientific progress. We then defend the social consensus account against objections that highlight the positive role of diversity and division of labour in science.


Theory Choice Good Sense Scientific Progress Moral Virtue Social Consensus 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Samir Okasha, David Stump and participants to the 2012 BSPS conference and to the Bristol Work in Progress Philosophy Seminar for their useful comments. Milena Ivanova would like to acknowledge the financial support of The Royal Institute of Philosophy.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of BristolBristolUK

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