, Volume 68, Issue 2, pp 213-224
Date: 24 Oct 2007

Approximate Truth and Descriptive Nesting

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Abstract

There is good reason to suppose that our best physical theories, quantum mechanics and special relativity, are false if taken together and literally. If they are in fact false, then how should they count as providing knowledge of the physical world? One might imagine that, while strictly false, our best physical theories are nevertheless in some sense probably approximately true. This paper presents a notion of local probable approximate truth in terms of descriptive nesting relations between current and subsequent theories. This notion helps explain how false physical theories might nevertheless provide physical knowledge of a variety that is particularly salient to diachronic empirical inquiry.