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SpeculationWithin and About Science$
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Peter Achinstein

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190615055

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190615055.001.0001

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The Ultimate Speculation

The Ultimate Speculation

A “Theory of Everything” (What Is It, and Why Should We Want One?)

(p.216) 5 The Ultimate Speculation

Peter Achinstein

Oxford University Press

Some scientists and philosophers claim that a “Theory of Everything” (TOE) exists and that scientists should find it. Such a theory will explain everything on the basis of fundamental laws and fundamental constituents of the universe to which everything else is reducible. This chapter clarifies what a TOE is supposed to be and do, and examines arguments in favor of the idea that there is a TOE and it should be found. These arguments involve claims from the history of science, claims about what science presupposes, claims about unification in science, and others. In response, this chapter shows not only that these arguments fail to establish their claims, but also that they fail to establish the desirability of a TOE. Contrary to what TOE enthusiasts insist, the intelligibility of the world does not depend on finding a TOE and using it to explain what scientists want and need to explain. Intelligibility is a local and contextual matter.

Keywords:   intelligibility, reduction, Theory of Everything (TOE), unification, Newtonian intelligibility

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