On Scenarios

Consider the following claims: (A) Had the weather been cloudy, Eddington would not have observed gravitational deflection in 1919. (B) Had Eddington not been a pacifist, gravitational deflection would never have been observed. Claim (A) implies that the weather was an explanatory cause of the observation in 1919, and claim (B) implies that the pacifism […]

Different Senses of “Contrastive Explanation”

There are two senses of *contrastive* explanation that are confused with each other too often. Consider we ask “Why did my friend buy a house?”. There are two types of contrast, one of which is at the conceptual core of explaining while the other is not, although the latter might be methodologically useful. The first […]

What Should We Do in Science? On Pursuitworthiness

Introduction Science requires resources. This limits the number of research programs[1] that can be initiated and kept alive. Due to this, we have to make decisions concerning which research programs to pursue. This generates the problem of pursuitworthiness. We have to identify those research programs that are worthy of pursuit. On what criteria can the […]

Why Presentism Matters? Selection, Pluralism and Historiographical Coordination

In a recent paper “Selection, presentism, and pluralist history” (2022), Hakob Barseghyan discusses presentism from the perspective of selection criteria in historiography, i.e. how to choose what events, phenomena, processes, and so on are studied in historiography. Barseghyan argues that there are three basic criteria neither of which is essentially presentist. Barseghyan argues that the […]

Narratives and Causal Explanation

Introduction In a previous post, I have discussed the connection between mechanisms and narratives. I tend to think that there are problems in linking historiographical explanation, narratives, and mechanisms. However, even if the linking of narratives with mechanistic explanation has significant shortcomings, the idea that narratives – especially causal narratives – are central in historiography […]

Limits of Conceivability in the Study of the Future. Part 6. Common Themes

Continues from the previous posts. In this series of posts, three cases from philosophy of science were discussed. The cases involve conceptual and epistemological considerations that suggest the following lessons. First, there are possible futures that cannot be conceived due to deep epistemological and conceptual reasons. At least in science, there have been unconceived alternatives […]

Limits of Conceivability in the Study of the Future. Part 5. Put Up or Shut Up

Continues from previous posts. Both cases discussed in previous posts are related to the so-called inevitability vs. contingentism debate but, in this post, we discuss a set of considerations that have been at the heart of the debate. The debate concerns the possibility of equally successful but fundamentally different science (Hacking 2000; Soler et. al […]

Limits of Conceivability in the Study of the Future. Part 4. The Problem of Leaking Counterfactuals

Continues from the previous posts We have seen, in Part 2, that counterfactual histories are often considered as an important way to approach future possibilities. However, a recent argument by Tambolo (2020) puts this verdict in doubt. Tambolo discusses counterfactuals in the historiography of science. Tambolo argues that “In the case of general history, it […]

Limits of Conceivability in the Study of the Future. Part 3. The Problem of Unconceived Alternatives

Continues from part 1 and part 2. In philosophy of science, one of the main debates concerns scientific realism. According to scientific realism, successful and mature scientific theories are approximately true descriptions of mind-independent reality (Psillos 1999, xvii). The debate concerning scientific realism is enormous and here we focus on one argumentative line within it. […]

Limits of Conceivability in the Study of The Future. Part 2. History, Future, and Conceivability

This post continues from the previous post. —- The three cases from philosophy of science draw conceptual and epistemological insights from considerations that are intimately related to history and historiography. They are related to history when they are based on events and patterns in the past, and they are related to historiography when they are […]

Limits of Conceivability in the Study of the Future. Part 1. The Problem

This post is the first post in a series that discusses the limits of conceivability. I draw lessons concerning our ability to conceive and reason about possible future from three argumentative cases in philosophy of science. In this post, I introduce the problem. In the next post, contextualize the philosophical cases on the theoretical and […]