Making Sense of Non-refuting Anomalies

  • María Caamaño-Alegre


As emphasized by Larry Laudan in developing the notion of non-refuting anomalies (Laudan 1977; Nola and Sankey 2000), traditional analyses of empirical adequacy have not paid enough attention to the fact that the latter does not only depend on a theory’s empirical consequences being true but also on them corresponding to the most salient phenomena in its domain of application. The purpose of this paper is to elucidate the notion of non-refuting anomaly. To this end, I critically examine Laudan’s account and provide a criterion to determine when a non-refuting anomaly can be ascribed to the applicative domain of a theory. Unless this latter issue is clarified, no proper sense can be made of non-refuting anomalies, and no argument could be opposed to those cases where an arbitrary restriction in a theory’s domain of application dramatically reduces the possibilities for its empirical scrutiny. In arguing for the importance of this notion, I show how several semanticist resources can help to reveal its crucial implications, not only for theory evaluation, but also for understanding the nature of a theory’s applicative domain.


Non-refuting anomaly Applicative domain Partial potential model 



I am thankful to Otàvio Bueno and José Díez for helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper. Thanks also to the participants in the 8th and 9th editions of the Latin American Conference on Structuralist Metatheory (Mexico DF 2012, Barcelona 2014), where I had the chance to get a valuable feedback on different aspects of this work. My gratitude algo goes to Emad Ali Khan for correcting my English. This research was financially supported by the research projects “Pragmatics as the Driving Force Behind the Study of Semantic Flexibility: Conversational Contexts and Theoretical Contexts” (FFI2012-33881, Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness) and “Models and Theories in Physical, Biological, and Social Sciences” (PICT-2014-1741, ANPCyT, Argentina).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Filosofía, Facultad de Filosofía y LetrasUniversidad de ValladolidValladolidSpain

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