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Why trust a theory? Epistemology of fundamental physics

Cambridge University Press has recently published a volume edited by Radin Dardashti, Richard Dawid, and Karim Thebault entitled Why Trust a Theory? Epistemology of Fundamental Physics. I have contributed a chapter to the effort, on “Philosophy of science and the string wars: a view from the outside,” which is available as free download here.

This is the description of the book: Do we need to reconsider scientific methodology in light of modern physics? Has the traditional scientific method become outdated, does it need to be defended against dangerous incursions, or has it always been different from what the canonical view suggests? To what extent should we accept non-empirical strategies for scientific theory assessment?

Many core aspects of contemporary fundamental physics are far from empirically well-confirmed. There is controversy on the epistemic status of the corresponding theories, in particular cosmic inflation, the multiverse, and string theory. This collection of essays is based on the high profile workshop ‘Why Trust a Theory?’ and provides interdisciplinary perspectives on empirical testing in fundamental physics from leading physicists, philosophers and historians of science. Integrating different contemporary and historical positions, it will be of interest to philosophers of science and physicists, as well as anyone interested in the foundations of contemporary science.

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