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