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Bayesian Philosophy of Science$
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Jan Sprenger and Stephan Hartmann

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780199672110

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199672110.001.0001

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The No Alternatives Argument

The No Alternatives Argument

(p.67) Variation 2: The No Alternatives Argument
Bayesian Philosophy of Science

Jan Sprenger

Stephan Hartmann

Oxford University Press

Convincing scientific theories are often hard to find, especially when empirical evidence is scarce (e.g., in particle physics). Once scientists have found a theory, they often believe that there are not many distinct alternatives to it. Is this belief justified? We model how the failure to find a feasible alternative can increase the degree of belief in a scientific theory—in other words, we establish the validity of the No Alternatives Argument and the possibility of non-empirical theory confirmation from a Bayesian point of view. Then we evaluate scope and limits of this argument (e.g., by calculating the degree of confirmation it provides) and relate it to other argument forms such as Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE) or “There is No Alternative” (TINA).

Keywords:   No Alternatives Argument, non-empirical theory confirmation, Bayesian modeling, TINA, scientific argumentation

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