, Volume 193, Issue 10, pp 3209–3238 | Cite as

Discovery without a ‘logic’ would be a miracle

  • Benjamin C. Jantzen


Scientists routinely solve the problem of supplementing one’s store of variables with new theoretical posits that can explain the previously inexplicable. The banality of success at this task obscures a remarkable fact. Generating hypotheses that contain novel variables and accurately project over a limited amount of additional data is so difficult—the space of possibilities so vast—that succeeding through guesswork is overwhelmingly unlikely despite a very large number of attempts. And yet scientists do generate hypotheses of this sort in very few tries. I argue that this poses a dilemma: either the long history of scientific success is a miracle, or there exists at least one method or algorithm for generating novel hypotheses with at least limited projectibility on the basis of what’s available to the scientist at a time, namely a set of observations, the history of past conjectures, and some prior theoretical commitments. In other words, either ordinary scientific success is miraculous or there exists a logic of discovery at the heart of actual scientific method.


Logic of discovery Scientific discovery Confirmation Induction Machine learning 



I am grateful to Richard Burian, Lydia Patton, Tristram McPherson, Kelly Trogdon, Ted Parent, Gregory Novak, Daniel Kraemer, Nathan Rockford, Nathan Adams, and two anonymous reviewers for their insightful criticisms of earlier versions of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentBlacksburgUSA

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