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The Logic of Theory Assessment

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This paper starts by indicating the analysis of Hempel’s conditions of adequacy for any relation of confirmation (Hempel, 1945) as presented in Huber (submitted). There I argue contra Carnap (1962, Section 87) that Hempel felt the need for two concepts of confirmation: one aiming at plausible theories and another aiming at informative theories. However, he also realized that these two concepts are conflicting, and he gave up the concept of confirmation aiming at informative theories. The main part of the paper consists in working out the claim that one can have Hempel’s cake and eat it too — in the sense that there is a logic of theory assessment that takes into account both of the two conflicting aspects of plausibility and informativeness. According to the semantics of this logic, α is an acceptable theory for evidence β if and only if α is both sufficiently plausible given β and sufficiently informative about β. This is spelt out in terms of ranking functions (Spohn, 1988) and shown to represent the syntactically specified notion of an assessment relation. The paper then compares these acceptability relations to explanatory and confirmatory consequence relations (Flach, 2000) as well as to nonmonotonic consequence relations (Kraus et al., 1990). It concludes by relating the plausibility-informativeness approach to Carnap’s positive relevance account, thereby shedding new light on Carnap’s analysis as well as solving another problem of confirmation theory.

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Correspondence to Franz Huber.

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A precursor of this paper has appeared as “The Logic of Confirmation and Theory Assessment” in L. Běhounek & M. Bílková (eds.), The Logica Yearbook 2004, Prague: Filosofia, 2005, 161–176.

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Huber, F. The Logic of Theory Assessment. J Philos Logic 36, 511–538 (2007).

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