Partial convergence and approximate truth

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 45 (1):153-170 (1994)
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Scientific Realists argue that it would be a miracle if scientific theories were getting more predictive without getting closer to the truth; so they must be getting closer to the truth. Van Fraassen, Laudan et al. argue that owing to the underdetermination of theory by data (UDT) for all we know, it is a miracle, a fluke. So we should not believe in even the approximate truth of theories. I argue that there is a test for who is right: suppose we are at the limit of inquiry. Suppose that we then have all the logically possible theories that are adequate to all the actual data. If they all resembled in their theoretical claims, since one of them must be true, all of them would then resemble it, whichever it is. We would thus be justified in saying they all approximated the truth in the degree to which they co-resembled. If they don't all co-resemble, the SRs are wrong; more predictive theories are not necessarily closer to the theoretical truth. Prior to the limit, if, in spite of our best efforts to the contrary, all the theories we can make adequate to current data tend to co-resemble, we have inductive warrant for thinking more predictive theories are closer to the truth. If they don't resemble, we have inductive warrant for thinking that more predictive theories are not necessarily closer to the truth.



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Duncan MacIntosh
Dalhousie University

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References found in this work

The scientific image.C. Van Fraassen Bas - 1980 - New York: Oxford University Press.
A confutation of convergent realism.Larry Laudan - 1981 - Philosophy of Science 48 (1):19-49.
Scientific Realism and the Plasticity of Mind.Adam Morton - 1982 - Philosophical Review 91 (2):299.
The inference to the best explanation.Gilbert H. Harman - 1965 - Philosophical Review 74 (1):88-95.
What metaphors mean.Donald Davidson - 2010 - In Darragh Byrne & Max Kölbel (eds.), Arguing about language. New York: Routledge. pp. 31.

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