Truth does not explain predictive success

Analysis 71 (2):232-234 (2011)
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Abstract

Laudan famously argued that neither truth nor approximate truth can be part of an explanation of a scientific theory's predictive success because in the history of science there were theories that enjoyed some limited success but now are considered outright false. The power of his argument lay in the many historic examples he listed . Realists have disputed that all theories on Laudan's list can be regarded as predictively successful but let's suppose momentarily that at least some exist that support his point. In this case, there are historic false theories that made some true predictions. We are aiming for a general explanation of a theory's predictive success and hence these false theories necessarily are on board. Now, Laudan also argues that historic false theories – the downright false ones and the ones we nowadays judge as strictly false, but approximately true – do not in any principled sense differ from the ones we presently accept. These theories seem to present a good basis for inductively inferring that any presently accepted scientific theory is actually false. Many presently accepted theories certainly are predictively successful to a great extent and certainly their success should be covered by an acceptable explanation. Since there seems to be inductive support for the conclusion that …

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References found in this work

A confutation of convergent realism.Larry Laudan - 1981 - Philosophy of Science 48 (1):19-49.
The Foundations of Statistics.Leonard J. Savage - 1956 - Philosophy of Science 23 (2):166-166.
Representing and Intervening.Ian Hacking - 1983 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 35 (4):381-390.

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