home >> research >> induction and confirmation: case studies
Mercury's perihelion motion This paper illustrates how the material theory of induction can be used to assess evidential claims made historically in science. Two cases are considered: Einstein's 1905 thermodynamic argument for light quanta and his 1915 recovery of the anomalous perihelion motion of Mercury. "History of Science and the Material Theory of Induction: Einstein's Quanta, Mercury's Perihelion," European Journal for Philosophy of Science. 1(2011), pp. 3-27.Download.
De Sitter Spacetimes What should we infer from the possibility of observationally indistinguishable spacetimes? I urge they are not a manifestation of the dubious thesis of the evidential underdetermination of theory, but a form of indeterminism within a theory. Moreover inductively discriminating among the spacetime requires inductive inferences that are "opaque" in the sense the we cannot see through them to their warrant. " Observationally Indistinguishable Spacetimes: A Challenge for Any Inductivist." In G. Morgan, ed., Philosophy of Science Matters: The Philosophy of Peter Achinstein. Oxford University Press, 2011, pp. 164-176. Download

The discovery of the "necessity" of quantum discontinuity by Poincaré, Ehrenfest and others in the 1910s illustrates an approach to inductive inference called "demonstrative induction" or "eliminative induction." It is a powerful means of displaying the import of evidence, fully able to defeat the common but mistaken wisdom of the thesis of the necessary underdetermination of theory by all possible evidence. The same approach is illustrated in Einstein's discovery of general relativity, where it functioned as a method of discovery.

"The Determination of Theory by Evidence: The Case for Quantum Discontinuity 1900-1915," Synthese, 97 , 1-31. Download

"Science and Certainty," Synthese, 99, pp.3-22.

"Eliminative Induction as a Method of Discovery: Einstein's Discovery of General Relativity," in J. Leplin (ed.) The Creation of Ideas in Physics: Studies for a Methodology of Theory Construction. Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1995, pp.29-69. Download.



Thomson's 1897 discovery of the electron and Bohr's 1913 codification of its quantum properties in his theory of the hydrogen atom illustrates different evidential strategies at work. "How We Know About Electrons," pp. 67- 97 in R. Nola and H. Sankey, eds., After Popper, Kuhn and Feyerabend; Recent Issues in Theories of Scientific Method. Dordrecht Kluwer. Download.


The rapid growth of our understanding of the nature of electrons in the hundred years after their discovery illustrates a version of structural reealism. With Jonathan Bain. "What Should Philosophers of Science Learn from the History of the Electron." pp. 451-65 in J. Z. Buchwald and A. Warwick, Histories of the Electron. Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2001. Download.