Theories Looking for Domains. Nomic Truth Approximation by Domain Revision

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


The theory of nomic truth approximation essentially deals primarily with truth approximation by theory revision for a fixed domain. However, variable domains and a fixed theory can also be taken into account, where the main changes concern domain extensions and restrictions. In this chapter I will present a coherent set of definitions of ‘more truthlikeness’, ‘empirical progress’ and ‘truth approximation’ due to a revision of the ‘domain of intended applications’. This set of definitions seems to be the natural counterpart of the basic definitions of similar notions as far as theory revision is concerned.

The resulting formal aspects of theory and domain revision strongly suggest an analogy between truth approximation and design research, for example, drug research: a new drug (theory) may be better for a certain disease (domain) than an old one. However, it also occurs that a certain drug may be better for another disease than for the original target disease, a phenomenon which was nicely captured by the title of a study by Rein Vos (1991): Drugs Looking for Diseases. Similarly, truth approximation may not only take the shape of theory revision but also of domain revision, naturally suggesting the phenomenon of ‘Theories looking for domains’. However, whereas Vos documented his title with a number of examples, so far, apart from plausible cases of ‘truth accumulation by domain extension’ and the conjecture that cases of so-called Kuhn-loss can be reconstructed as cases of ‘truth approximation by domain restriction’, I did not find clear-cut but more complex empirical instantiations of the analogy, only some very interesting, non-empirical examples.


Domain revision Domain of intended applications Truth approximation by domain revision Domain restriction Analogy with design research Kuhn-loss Truth accumulation 


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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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