Refined Nomic Truth Approximation

  • Theo A. F. Kuipers
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 399)


Assuming that the target of theory oriented empirical science in general and of nomic truth approximation in particular is to characterize the boundary or demarcation between nomic possibilities and nomic impossibilities, I have presented in Chap.  4 (“Models, postulates, and generalized nomic truth approximation”) the ‘basic’ version of generalized nomic truth approximation, starting from ‘two-sided’ theories. Its main claim is that nomic truth approximation can perfectly be achieved by combining two prima facie opposing views on theories: (1) the traditional (Popperian) view: theories are (sets of models of) postulates that exclude certain possibilities from being realizable, enabling explanation and prediction and (2) the model view: theories are sets of models that claim to (approximately) represent certain realizable possibilities. Nomic truth approximation, i.e., increasing truth-content and decreasing falsity-content, becomes in this way revising theories by revising their models and/or their postulates in the face of increasing evidence.

The basic version of generalized nomic truth approximation is in many respects as simple as possible. Among other things, it does not take into account that one conceptual possibility may be more similar (or closer) to another than a third one (is to that other). However, for example, one theory may include a possibility that is more similar to a wrongly not included possibility than another theory can offer. Similarly, for wrongly not excluded possibilities. In this chapter it will be shown that such ‘refined’ considerations can be taken into account by adapted clauses based on a ternary similarity relation between possibilities (structures). This allows again abductive conclusions about refined truth approximation if a theory is persistently more successful in the refined sense than another.

It will also be indicated and illustrated that this refined approach enables a specification to the effect that refined truth approximation can be obtained by the method of idealization and subsequent concretization. Finally, the basic and the refined approach will be evaluated with regard to some general principles and objections that have been discussed in the literature.


Refined closer to the truth Refined more successful Two-sided theories Structurelikeness Likeness clauses Usefulness clauses Refined success theorem Idealization and concretization Ideal gas model Van der Waals model Validity research Child’s play objection 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Theo A. F. Kuipers
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Theoretical PhilosophyUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands

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