Philosophical Theories, Aesthetic Value, and Theory Choice
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The practice of attributing aesthetic properties to scientific and philosophical theories is commonplace. Perhaps one of the most famous examples of such an aesthetic judgement about a theory is Quine’s in ‘On what there is’: “Wyman’s overpopulated universe is in many ways unlovely. It offends the aesthetic sense of us who have a taste for desert landscapes […]”.1Many other philosophers and scientists, before and after Quine, have attributed aesthetic properties to particular theories they are defending or rejecting. One often hears that a view is “elegant”, “attractive”, “beautiful”, or even “sexy”. The physicist Brian Greene decided to call the book, where he explains and defends the theory of superstrings for a general readership, “The elegant universe”. And Dirac commented on general relativity theory thus: “The foundations of the theory are, I believe, stronger than what one could get simply from the support of experimental evidence. The real foundations come from the great...