Troubles with Theoretical Virtues: Resisting Theoretical Utility Arguments in Metaphysics

Otavio Bueno, Scott A. Shalkowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In this paper we examine theoretical utility arguments in metaphysics. While philosophers claim a procedural continuity with science when using such arguments, we argue that examining famous instances from the history of science expose their fundamental flaws. We find that arguments from theoretical utility invoke considerations that are not truth conducive and that justifications for claims that a theory possesses theoretical virtues often assume the truth of the theory such virtues are supposed to support. We conclude that theoretical utility arguments provide no epistemic grounds for metaphysical inquiry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPhilosophy and Phenomenological Research
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • coherence
  • consistency
  • explanatory power
  • indispensability
  • inference to the best explanation
  • theoretical utility
  • truth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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