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This paper offers a general characterization of underdetermination and gives a prima facie case for the underdetermination of the topology of the universe. A survey of several philosophical approaches to the problem fails to resolve the issue: the case involves the possibility of massive reduplication, but Strawson on massive reduplication provides no help here; it is not obvious that any of the rival theories are to be preferred on grounds of simplicity; and the usual talk of empirically equivalent theories misses the point entirely. (If the choice is underdetermined, then the theories are not empirically equivalent!) Yet the thought experiment is analogous to a live scientific possibility, and actual astronomy faces underdetermination of this kind. This paper concludes by suggesting how the matter can be resolved, either by localizing the underdetermination or by defeating it entirely.


Publisher Acknowledgment:

This is the Author's Accepted Manuscript of a peer reviewed paper made available by Oxford University Press © 2005.

The published version appears here: Magnus, P.D. (2005). Reckoning the Shape of Everything: Underdetermination and Cosmotopology. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 56 (3): 541-557. July 2005. Available at:



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