Erkenntnis

, Volume 78, Issue 4, pp 921–935 | Cite as

Progress as Approximation to the Truth: A Defence of the Verisimilitudinarian Approach

Original Article

Abstract

In this paper we provide a compact presentation of the verisimilitudinarian approach to scientific progress (VS, for short) and defend it against the sustained attack recently mounted by Alexander Bird (2007). Advocated by such authors as Ilkka Niiniluoto and Theo Kuipers, VS is the view that progress can be explained in terms of the increasing verisimilitude (or, equivalently, truthlikeness, or approximation to the truth) of scientific theories. According to Bird, VS overlooks the central issue of the appropriate grounding of scientific beliefs in the evidence, and it is therefore unable (a) to reconstruct in a satisfactory way some hypothetical cases of scientific progress, and (b) to provide an explanation of the aversion to falsity that characterizes scientific practice. We rebut both of these criticisms and argue that they reveal a misunderstanding of some key concepts underlying VS.

Notes

Acknowledgments

We wish to thank Roberto Festa, Theo Kuipers, Ilkka Niiniluoto, and two anonymous referees for comments on earlier versions of this paper. Gustavo Cevolani acknowledges financial support from PRIN grant 2008 ‘Probability, stability, and invariance’. Luca Tambolo acknowledges financial support from PRIN grant 2008 ‘Probability, confirmation, and verisimilitude. The cognitive structures of “expert” opinion and decision in the empirical sciences and social interactions’.

References

  1. Bird, A. (2007). What is scientific progress? Noûs, 41, 64–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bird, A. (2008). Scientific progress as accumulation of knowledge. A reply to Rowbottom. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 39, 279–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cevolani, G. & Calandra, F. (2010). Approaching the truth via belief change in propositional languages. In M. Suárez, M. Dorato & M. Rédei (Eds.), EPSA. Epistemology and methodology of science: Launch of the European Philosophy of Science Association (pp. 47–62). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  4. Cevolani, G., Crupi, V., & Festa, R. (2011). Verisimilitude and belief change for conjunctive theories. Erkenntnis, 75, 183–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cools, K., Hamminga, B., & Kuipers, Th. A. F. (1994). Truth approximation by concretization in capital structure theory. In B. Hamminga & N. De Marchi (Eds.), Idealization VI: Idealization in economics (pp. 205–228). Amsterdam: Rodopi.Google Scholar
  6. Dilworth, C. (2008). Scientific progress. A study concerning the nature of the relation between successive scientific theories (4th ed.). Berlin/New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  7. Festa, R. (2007). Verisimilitude, cross classification, and prediction logic. Approaching the statistical truth by falsified qualitative theories. Mind and Society, 6, 91–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Festa, R., Aliseda, A., & Peijnenburg, J. (Eds.) (2005b). Cognitive structures in scientific inquiry. Essays in debate with Theo Kuipers. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi.Google Scholar
  9. Festa, R., Aliseda, A., & Peijnenburg, J. (Eds.) (2005a). Confirmation, empirical progress, and truth approximation. Essays in debate with Theo Kuipers. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi.Google Scholar
  10. Hettema, H. & Kuipers, Th. A. F. (1995). Sommerfeld’s Atombau: a case study in potential truth approximation. In Th. A. F. Kuipers & A. R. Mackor (Eds.), Cognitive patterns in science and common sense (pp. 273–197). Amsterdam: Rodopi.Google Scholar
  11. Hilpinen, R. (1976). Approximate truth and truthlikeness. In M. Przełecki, K. Szaniawski & R. Wójcicki (Eds.), Formal methods in the methodology of the empirical sciences (pp. 19–42). Dordrecht: Reidel.Google Scholar
  12. Kieseppä, I. A. (1996a). On the aim of the theory of verisimilitude. Synthese, 107, 421–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kieseppä, I. A. (1996b). Truthlikeness for multidimensional, quantitative cognitive problems. Dordrecht: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kuhn, Th. S. (1962/1970). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  15. Kuipers, Th. A. F. (2000). From instrumentalism to constructive realism. On some relations between confirmation, empirical progress, and truth approximation. Dordrecht: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kuipers, Th. A. F. (1987). A structuralist approach to truthlikeness. In Th. A. F. Kuipers (Ed.), What is closer-to-the-truth? (pp. 79–99). Amsterdam: Rodopi.Google Scholar
  17. Kuipers, Th. A. F. (2004). Inference to the best theory, rather than inference to the best explanation. Kinds of abduction and induction. In F. Stadler (Ed.), Induction and deduction in the sciences (pp. 25–51). Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  18. Kuipers, Th. A. F. (2009). Comparative realism as the best response to antirealism. In C. Glymour, W. Wei & D. Westerstahl (Eds.), Logic, methodology and philosophy of science. Proceedings of the thirteenth international congress (August 9–15, 2007, Beijing) (pp. 221–250). London: College Publications.Google Scholar
  19. Kuipers, Th. A. F. (2011a). Basic and refined nomic truth approximation by evidence-guided belief revision in AGM-terms. Erkenntnis, 75, 223–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kuipers, Th. A. F. (2011b). Dovetailing belief base revision with (basic) truth approximation. Forthcoming in the proceedings of the Logic, reasoning and rationality conference (Gent, September 20–22, 2010).Google Scholar
  21. Laudan, L. (1978). Progress and its problems. Towards a theory of scientific growth. Berkeley: The University of California Press.Google Scholar
  22. Laudan, L. (1984). Science and values. Berkeley: The University of California Press.Google Scholar
  23. Laudan, L. (1996). Beyond positivism and relativism. Theory, method, and evidence. Boulder: Westview.Google Scholar
  24. Liu, C. (1999). Approximation, idealization, and laws of nature. Synthese, 118, 229–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Liu, C. (2004). Laws and models in a theory of idealization. Synthese, 138, 363–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Losee, J. (2004). Theories of scientific progress. An introduction. London/New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Miller, D. (1974). Popper’s qualitative theory of verisimilitude. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 25, 166–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Miller, D. (1978). On distance from the truth as a true distance. In J. Hintikka, I. Niiniluoto & E. Saarinen (Eds.), Essays on mathematical and philosophical logic (pp. 415–435). Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  29. Niiniluoto, I. (1984). Is science progressive?. Dordrecht: Reidel.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Niiniluoto, I. (1987). Truthlikeness. Dordrecht: Reidel.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Niiniluoto, I. (1994). Approximation in applied science. In M. Kuokkanen (Ed.), Idealization VII: Structuralism, idealization, and approximation (pp. 127–139). Amsterdam: Rodopi.Google Scholar
  32. Niiniluoto, I. (1998). Verisimilitude: the third period. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 49, 1–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Niiniluoto, I. (1999a). Critical scientific realism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Niiniluoto, I. (1999b). Belief revision and truthlikeness. In B. Hansson, S. Halldén, N.-E. Sahlin & W. Rabinowicz (Eds.), Spinning ideas: Internet Festschrift for Peter Gärdenfors, http://www.lucs.lu.se/spinning/. Accessed 1 Dec 2011.
  35. Niiniluoto, I. (2010). Theory change, truthlikeness, and belief revision. In M. Suárez, M. Dorato & M. Rédei (Eds.), EPSA. Epistemology and methodology of science: Launch of the European Philosophy of Science Association (pp. 189–199). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  36. Niiniluoto, I. (2011a). Scientific progress. In E. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Summer 2011 ed.). http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2011/entries/scientificprogress/. Accessed 1 Dec 2011.
  37. Niiniluoto, I. (2011b). Revising beliefs towards the truth. Erkenntnis, 75, 165–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Northcott, R. (2011). Verisimilitude: a causal approach. Synthese. doi: 10.1007/s11229-011-9895-7.Google Scholar
  39. Oddie, G. (1986). Likeness to truth. Dordrecht: Reidel.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Oddie, G. (2008). Truthlikeness. In E. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Fall 2008 ed.). http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2008/entries/truthlikeness/. Accessed 1 Dec 2011.
  41. Pihlström, S., Raatikainen, P., & Sintonen, M. (Eds.). (2007). Approaching truth: Essays in honour of Ilkka Niiniluoto. London: College Publications.Google Scholar
  42. Piscopo, C., & Birattari, M. (2010). A critique of the constitutive role of truthlikeness in the similarity approach. Erkenntnis, 72, 379–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Popper, K. R. (1963). Conjectures and refutations. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  44. Popper, K. R. (1972). Objective knowledge. An evolutionary approach. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  45. Rowbottom, D. P. (2008). N-rays and the semantic view of scientific progress. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 39, 277–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Rowbottom, D. P. (2010). What scientific progress is not: against Bird’s epistemic view. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 24, 241–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Schurz, G. (2011). Verisimilitude and belief revision. With a focus on the relevant element account. Erkenntnis, 75, 203–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Schurz, G., & Weingartner, P. (1987). Verisimilitude defined by relevant consequence-elements. A new reconstruction of Popper’s original idea. In Th. A. F. Kuipers (Ed.), What is closer-to-the-truth? (pp. 47–78). Amsterdam: Rodopi.Google Scholar
  49. Schurz, G., & Weingartner, P. (2010). Zwart and Franssen’s impossibility theorem holds for possible-world-accounts but not for consequence-accounts to verisimilitude. Synthese, 172, 415–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Tichý, P. (1974). On Popper’s definition of verisimilitude. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 25, 155–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Votsis, I., & Schurz, G. (2011). A frame-theoretic analysis of two rival conceptions of heat. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science. doi: 10.1016/j.shpsa.2011.10.010.Google Scholar
  52. Weston, T. (1992). Approximate truth and scientific realism. Philosophy of Science, 59, 53–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Zamora Bonilla, J. (1992). Truthlikeness without truth: a methodological approach. Synthese, 93, 343–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Zamora Bonilla, J. (1996). Verisimilitude, structuralism, and scientific progress. Erkenntnis, 44, 25–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Zamora Bonilla, J. (2000). Truthlikeness, rationality, and scientific method. Synthese, 122, 321–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Zwart, S. D. (2001). Refined verisimilitude. Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of BolognaSpilamberto, ModenaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Philosophy, Languages, and LiteraturesUniversity of TriesteSasso Marconi, BolognaItaly

Personalised recommendations