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The indispensability argument (IA) comes in many different versions that all reduce to a general valid schema. Providing a sound IA amounts to providing a full interpretation of the schema according to which all its premises are true. Hence, arguing whether IA is sound results in wondering whether the schema admits such an interpretation. We discuss in full details all the parameters on which the specification of the general schema may depend. In doing this, we consider how different versions of IA can be obtained, also through different specifications of the notion of indispensability. We then distinguish between schematic and genuine IA, and argue that no genuine (non-vacuously and non-circularly) sound IA is available or easily forthcoming. We then submit that this holds also in the particularly relevant case in which indispensability is conceived as explanatory indispensability.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Synthese, volume 193, in 2016 following peer review. The final publication may differ and is available at Springer via

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