About this topic
Summary Interest in the topic of theory change (and theory choice) arose in the context of the "historical turn" in the philosophy of science associated with Thomas Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend and others.  While a significant focus of the theory change literature relates to the transition between theories in the context of a scientific revolution, the general topic of theory change is not restricted to revolutionary transition between theories.  It covers not only non-revolutionary transition between theories, but also change internal to theory.
Key works The work that placed this topic on the philosophical agenda is Kuhn 1962, and later editions, e.g. Kuhn 1996.  An important book dealing with philosophical reactions to Kuhn's account of theory change is Lakatos & Musgrave 1970 (see especially Lakatos 1970).  Another important document is Suppe 1974.
Introductions Chalmers 1979
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  1. Evandro Agazzi (1985). Commensurability, Incommensurability, and Cumulativity in Scientific Knowledge. Erkenntnis 22 (1-3):51 - 77.
    Until the middle of the present century it was a commonly accepted opinion that theory change in science was the expression of cumulative progress consisting in the acquisition of new truths and the elimination of old errors. Logical empiricists developed this idea through a deductive model, saying that a theory T superseding a theory T must be able logically to explain whatever T explained and something more as well. Popper too shared this model, but stressed that T explains the old (...)
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  2. Carlos E. Alchourrón, Peter Gärdenfors & David Makinson (1985). On the Logic of Theory Change: Partial Meet Contraction and Revision Functions. Journal of Symbolic Logic 50 (2):510-530.
    This paper extends earlier work by its authors on formal aspects of the processes of contracting a theory to eliminate a proposition and revising a theory to introduce a proposition. In the course of the earlier work, Gardenfors developed general postulates of a more or less equational nature for such processes, whilst Alchourron and Makinson studied the particular case of contraction functions that are maximal, in the sense of yielding a maximal subset of the theory (or alternatively, of one of (...)
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  3. Carlos E. Alchourrón & David Makinson (1985). On the Logic of Theory Change: Safe Contraction. Studia Logica 44 (4):405 - 422.
    This paper is concerned with formal aspects of the logic of theory change, and in particular with the process of shrinking or contracting a theory to eliminate a proposition. It continues work in the area by the authors and Peter Gärdenfors. The paper defines a notion of safe contraction of a set of propositions, shows that it satisfies the Gärdenfors postulates for contraction and thus can be represented as a partial meet contraction, and studies its properties both in general and (...)
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  4. Carlos E. Alchourron & David Makinson (1982). On the Logic of Theory Change: Contraction Functions and Their Associated Revision Functions. Theoria 48 (1):14-37.
  5. D. Allchin (1995). Lindley Darden, Theory Change in Science: Strategies From Mendelian Genetics. Science and Education 4:399-399.
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  6. Hanne Andersen (2001). Reference and Resemblance. Proceedings of the Philosophy of Science Association 2001 (3):S50-.
    Many discussions between realists and non-realists have centered on the issue of reference, especially whether there is referential stability during theory change. In this paper, I shall summarize the debate, sketching the problems that remain within the two opposing positions, and show that both have ended on their own slippery slope, sliding away from their original position toward that of their opponents. In the search for a viable intermediate position, I shall then suggest an account of reference which, to a (...)
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  7. Guy S. Axtell (1993). In the Tracks of the Historicist Movement: Re-Assessing the Carnap-Kuhn Connection. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 24 (1):119-146.
    Thirty years after the publication of Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, sharp disagreement persists concerning the implications of Kuhn’s "historicist" challenge to empiricism. I discuss the historicist movement over the past thirty years, and the extent to which the discourse between two branches of the historical school has been influenced by tacit assumptions shared with Rudolf Carnap’s empiricism. I begin with an examination of Carnap’s logicism --his logic of science-- and his 1960 correspondence with Kuhn. I focus on (...)
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  8. Greg Bamford (1996). Popper and His Commentators on the Discovery of Neptune: A Close Shave for the Law of Gravitation? Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 27 (2):207-232.
    Knowledge of residual perturbations in Uranus's orbit led to Neptune's discovery in 1846 rather than the refutation of Newton's law of gravitation. Karl Popper asserts that this case is untypical of science and that the law was at least prima facie falsified. I argue that these assertions are the product of a false, a priori methodological position, 'Weak Popperian Falsificationism' (WPF), and that on the evidence the law was not, and was not considered, prima facie false. Many of Popper's commentators (...)
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  9. Greg Bamford (1989). Popper, Refutation and 'Avoidance' of Refutation. Dissertation, The University of Queensland
    Popper's account of refutation is the linchpin of his famous view that the method of science is the method of conjecture and refutation. This thesis critically examines his account of refutation, and in particular the practice he deprecates as avoiding a refutation. I try to explain how he comes to hold the views that he does about these matters; how he seeks to make them plausible; how he has influenced others to accept his mistakes, and how some of the ideas (...)
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  10. Richard N. Boyd (1993). Metaphor and Theory Change. In A. Ortony (ed.), Metaphor and Thought, 2nd Edition. Cambridge University Press.
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  11. Ingo Brigandt (2010). The Epistemic Goal of a Concept: Accounting for the Rationality of Semantic Change and Variation. Synthese 177 (1):19-40.
    The discussion presents a framework of concepts that is intended to account for the rationality of semantic change and variation, suggesting that each scientific concept consists of three components of content: 1) reference, 2) inferential role, and 3) the epistemic goal pursued with the concept’s use. I argue that in the course of history a concept can change in any of these components, and that change in the concept’s inferential role and reference can be accounted for as being rational relative (...)
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  12. K. Britz (1999). A Power Algebra for Theory Change. Journal of Logic, Language and Information 8 (4):429-443.
    Various representation results have been established for logics of belief revision, in terms of remainder sets, epistemic entrenchment, systems of spheres and so on. In this paper I present another representation for logics of belief revision, as an algebra of theories. I show that an algebra of theories, enriched with a set of rejection operations, provides a suitable algebraic framework to characterize the theory change operations of systems of belief revision. The theory change operations arise as power operations of the (...)
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  13. Stephen G. Brush (1999). Dynamics of Theory Change in Chemistry: Part 2. Benzene and Molecular Orbitals, 1945–1980. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 30 (2):263-302.
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  14. Stephen G. Brush (1999). Dynamics of Theory Change in Chemistry: Part 1. The Benzene Problem 1865–1945. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 30 (1):21-79.
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  15. Stephen G. Brush (1994). Dynamics of Theory Change: The Role of Predictions. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1994:133 - 145.
    The thesis that scientists give greater weight to novel predictions than to explanations of known facts is tested against historical cases in physical science. Several theories were accepted after successful novel predictions but there is little evidence that extra credit was given for novelty. Other theories were rejected despite, or accepted without, making successful novel predictions. No examples were found of theories that were accepted primarily because of successful novel predictions and would not have been accepted if those facts had (...)
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  16. O. Bueno (2000). Empiricism, Scientific Change and Mathematical Change. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 31 (2):269-296.
    The aim of this paper is to provide a unified account of scientific and mathematical change in a thoroughly empiricist setting. After providing a formal modelling in terms of embedding, and criticising it for being too restrictive, a second modelling is advanced. It generalises the first, providing a more open-ended pattern of theory development, and is articulated in terms of da Costa and French's partial structures approach. The crucial component of scientific and mathematical change is spelled out in terms of (...)
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  17. Otávio Bueno (2008). Structural Realism, Scientific Change, and Partial Structures. Studia Logica 89 (2):213 - 235.
    Scientific change has two important dimensions: conceptual change and structural change. In this paper, I argue that the existence of conceptual change brings serious difficulties for scientific realism, and the existence of structural change makes structural realism look quite implausible. I then sketch an alternative account of scientific change, in terms of partial structures, that accommodates both conceptual and structural changes. The proposal, however, is not realist, and supports a structuralist version of van Fraassen’s constructive empiricism (structural empiricism).
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  18. Otávio Bueno (1999). What is Structural Empiricism? Scientific Change in an Empiricist Setting. Erkenntnis 50 (1):55-81.
    In this paper a constructive empiricist account of scientific change is put forward. Based on da Costa's and French's partial structures approach, two notions of empirical adequacy are initially advanced (with particular emphasis on the introduction of degrees of empirical adequacy). Using these notions, it is shown how both the informativeness and the empirical adequacy requirements of an empiricist theory of scientific change can then be met. Finally, some philosophical consequences with regard to the role of structures in this context (...)
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  19. Jacob Busch (2009). Underdetermination and Rational Choice of Theories. Philosophia 37 (1):55-65.
    The underdetermination of theory by data argument (UD) is traditionally construed as an argument that tells us that we ought to favour an anti-realist position over a realist position. I argue that when UD is constructed as an argument saying that theory choice is to proceed between theories that are empirically equivalent and adequate to the phenomena up until now, the argument will not favour constructive empiricism over realism. A constructive empiricist cannot account for why scientists are reasonable in expecting (...)
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  20. Jacob Busch (2008). No New Miracles, Same Old Tricks. Theoria 74 (2):102-114.
    Abstract: Laudan (1984) distinguishes between two senses of success for scientific theories: (i) that a particular theory is successful, and (ii) that the methods for picking out approximately true theories are successful. These two senses of success are reflected in two different ways that the no miracles argument for scientific realism (NMA) may be set out. First, I set out a (traditional) version of NMA that considers the success of particular theories. I then consider a more recent formulation of NMA (...)
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  21. H. G. Callaway, (2007). Abduction, Pragmatism and the Scientific Imagination. Arisbe, Peirce Related Papers.
    Peirce claims in his Lectures on Pragmatism [CP 5.196] that “If you carefully consider the question of pragmatism you will see that it is nothing else than the question of the logic of abduction;” and further “no effect of pragmatism which is consequent upon its effect on abduction can go to show that pragmatism is anything more than a doctrine concerning the logic of abduction.” Plausibly, there is, at best, a quasi-logic of abduction, which properly issues in our best means (...)
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  22. Gustavo Cevolani (2013). Truth Approximation Via Abductive Belief Change. Logic Journal of the Igpl 21 (6):999-1016.
    We investigate the logical and conceptual connections between abductive reasoning construed as a process of belief change, on the one hand, and truth approximation, construed as increasing (estimated) verisimilitude, on the other. We introduce the notion of ‘(verisimilitude-guided) abductive belief change’ and discuss under what conditions abductively changing our theories or beliefs does lead them closer to the truth, and hence tracks truth approximation conceived as the main aim of inquiry. The consequences of our analysis for some recent discussions concerning (...)
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  23. Gustavo Cevolani & Francesco Calandra (2010). Approaching the Truth Via Belief Change in Propositional Languages. In M. Suàrez, M. Dorato & M. Rèdei (eds.), Epsa Epistemology and Methodology of Science: Launch of the European Philosophy of Science Association. Springer. 47--62.
    Starting from the sixties of the past century theory change has become a main concern of philosophy of science. Two of the best known formal accounts of theory change are the post-Popperian theories of verisimilitude (PPV for short) and the AGM theory of belief change (AGM for short). In this paper, we will investigate the conceptual relations between PPV and AGM and, in particular, we will ask whether the AGM rules for theory change are effective means for approaching the truth, (...)
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  24. Gustavo Cevolani, Vincenzo Crupi & Roberto Festa (2011). Verisimilitude and Belief Change for Conjunctive Theories. Erkenntnis 75 (2):183-202.
    Theory change is a central concern in contemporary epistemology and philosophy of science. In this paper, we investigate the relationships between two ongoing research programs providing formal treatments of theory change: the (post-Popperian) approach to verisimilitude and the AGM theory of belief change. We show that appropriately construed accounts emerging from those two lines of epistemological research do yield convergences relative to a specified kind of theories, here labeled “conjunctive”. In this domain, a set of plausible conditions are identified which (...)
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  25. Gustavo Cevolani & Roberto Festa (2012). &Quot;merely a Logician's Toy?&Quot; Belief Revision Confronting Scientific Theory Change. [REVIEW] Metascience 21 (2):463-466.
    Review of Olsson, Erik J. and Enqvist, Sebastian (Eds.), Belief Revision meets Philosophy of Science .
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  26. Gustavo Cevolani, Roberto Festa & Theo A. F. Kuipers (2013). Verisimilitude and Belief Change for Nomic Conjunctive Theories. Synthese 190 (16):3307-3324.
    In this paper, we address the problem of truth approximation through theory change, asking whether revising our theories by newly acquired data leads us closer to the truth about a given domain. More particularly, we focus on “nomic conjunctive theories”, i.e., theories expressed as conjunctions of logically independent statements concerning the physical or, more generally, nomic possibilities and impossibilities of the domain under inquiry. We define both a comparative and a quantitative notion of the verisimilitude of such theories, and identify (...)
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  27. Alan Chalmers (1979). Towards an Objectivist Account of Theory Change. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 30 (3):227-233.
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  28. Hasok Chang (2003). Preservative Realism and its Discontents: Revisiting Caloric. Philosophy of Science 70 (5):902-912.
    A popular and plausible response against Laudan's “pessimistic induction” has been what I call “preservative realism,” which argues that there have actually been enough elements of scientific knowledge preserved through major theory‐change processes, and that those elements can be accepted realistically. This paper argues against preservative realism, in particular through a critical review of Psillos's argument concerning the case of the caloric theory of heat. Contrary to his argument, the historical record of the caloric theory reveals that beliefs about the (...)
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  29. Hasok Chang (1995). The Quantum Counter-Revolution: Internal Conflicts in Scientific Change. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 26 (2):121-136.
  30. Sylvia Culp & Philip Kitcher (1989). Theory Structure and Theory Change in Contemporary Molecular Biology. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 40 (4):459-483.
    Traditional approaches to theory structure and theory change in science do not fare well when confronted with the practice of certain fields of science. We offer an account of contemporary practice in molecular biology designed to address two questions: Is theory change in this area of science gradual or saltatory? What is the relation between molecular biology and the fields of traditional biology? Our main focus is a recent episode in molecular biology, the discovery of enzymatic RNA. We argue that (...)
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  31. James T. Cushing (1989). The Justification and Selection of Scientific Theories. Synthese 78 (1):1 - 24.
    This paper is a critique of a project, outlined by Laudan et al. (1986) recently in this journal, for empirically testing philosophical models of change in science by comparing them against the historical record of actual scientific practice. While the basic idea of testing such models of change in the arena of science is itself an appealing one, serious questions can be raised about the suitability of seeking confirmation or disconfirmation for large numbers of specific theses drawn from a massive (...)
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  32. Lindley Darden (1991). Theory Change in Science: Strategies From Mendelian Genetics. Oxford University Press.
    This innovative book focuses on the development of the gene theory as a case study in scientific creativity.
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  33. Lindley Darden (1976). Reasoning in Scientific Change: Charles Darwin, Hugo de Vries, and the Discovery of Segregation. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 7 (2):127-169.
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  34. Alex Stewart Davies (2013). Kuhn on Incommensurability and Theory Choice. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 44 (4):571-579.
    The incommensurability of two theories seems to problematize theory comparisons, which allow for the selection of the better of the two theories. If so, it becomes puzzling how the quality of theories can improve with time, i.e. how science can progress across changes in incommensurable theories. I argue that in papers published in the 1990s, Kuhn provided a novel way to resolve this apparent tension between incommensurability and scientific progress. He put forward an account of their compatibility which worked not (...)
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  35. Rogier De Langhe (2013). The Kuhnian Paradigm. Topoi 32 (1):65-73.
    Kuhn wanted to install a new research agenda in philosophy of science. I argue that the tools are now available to better articulate his paradigm and let it guide philosophical research instead of itself remaining the object of philosophical debate.
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  36. Rogier De Langhe, Scientific Change.
  37. Mauro Dorato (2011). TRUTH, LAWS AND THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE. Manuscrito 34 (1):185-204.
    In this paper I analyze the difficult question of the truth of mature scientific theories by tackling the problem of the truth of laws. After introducing the main philosophical positions in the field of scientific realism, I discuss and then counter the two main arguments against realism, namely the pessimistic metainduction and the abstract and idealized character of scientific laws. I conclude by defending the view that well-confirmed physical theories are true only relatively to certain values of the variables that (...)
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  38. Ludwig Fahrbach (2011). How the Growth of Science Ends Theory Change. Synthese 180 (2):139 - 155.
    This paper outlines a defense of scientific realism against the pessimistic meta-induction which appeals to the phenomenon of the exponential growth of science. Here, scientific realism is defined as the view that our current successful scientific theories are mostly approximately true, and pessimistic meta-induction is the argument that projects the occurrence of past refutations of successful theories to the present concluding that many or most current successful scientific theories are false. The defense starts with the observation that at least 80% (...)
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  39. Lefteris Farmakis (2008). Did Tom Kuhn Actually Meet Tom Bayes? Erkenntnis 68 (1):41 - 53.
    Wesley Salmon and John Earman have presented influential Bayesian reconstructions of Thomas Kuhn’s account of theory-change. In this paper I argue that all attempts to give a Bayesian reading of Kuhn’s philosophy of science are fundamentally misguided due to the fact that Bayesian confirmation theory is in fact inconsistent with Kuhn’s account. The reasons for this inconsistency are traced to the role the concept of incommensurability plays with reference to the ‘observational vocabulary’ within Kuhn’s picture of scientific theories. The upshot (...)
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  40. Eduardo L. Fermé (1998). On the Logic of Theory Change: Contraction Without Recovery. [REVIEW] Journal of Logic, Language and Information 7 (2):127-137.
    The postulate of Recovery, among the six postulates for theory contraction, formulated and studied by Alchourrón, Gärdenfors and Makinson is the one that has provoked most controversy. In this article we construct withdrawal functions that do not satisfy Recovery, but try to preserve minimal change, and relate these withdrawal functions with the AGM contraction functions.
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  41. Paul Feyerabend (1993). Against Method. Verso.
    Feyerabrend argues that intellectual progress relies on the creativity of the scientist, against the authority of science.
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  42. Paul Feyerabend (1981). Problems of Empiricism. Cambridge University Press.
    Over the past thirty years Paul Feyerabend has developed an extremely distinctive and influentical approach to problems in the philosophy of science. The most important and seminal of his published essays are collected here in two volumes, with new introductions to provide an overview and historical perspective on the discussions of each part. Volume 1 presents papers on the interpretation of scientific theories, together with papers applying the views developed to particular problems in philosophy and physics. The essays in volume (...)
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  43. Paul Feyerabend (1974/1975). Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge. Humanities Press.
  44. Hartry Field (1973). Theory Change and the Indeterminacy of Reference. Journal of Philosophy 70 (14):462-481.
  45. Arthur I. Fine (1967). Consistency, Derivability, and Scientific Change. Journal of Philosophy 64 (8):231-240.
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  46. M. A. Finocchiaro (1984). Book Reviews : Proceedings of the 1978 Pisa Conference on the History and Philosophy of Science, Vol. I: Theory Change, Ancient Axiomatics, and Galileo's Methodology; Vol. II: Probabilistic Thinking, Thermodynamics, and the Interaction of the History and Philosophy of Science. Edited by J. HIN- TIKKA, D. GRUENDER, and E. AGAZZI. Dordrecht and Boston: Reidel, 1981. Pp. Xiv + 352 and Xiv + 326. $50.00 Each, $89.50 Both Volumes. [REVIEW] Philosophy of the Social Sciences 14 (4):572-575.
  47. André Fuhrmann (1989). Reflective Modalities and Theory Change. Synthese 81 (1):115 - 134.
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  48. André Fuhrmann & Michael Morreau (eds.) (1991). The Logic of Theory Change. Springer.
    The book presents the results of the joint annual conference of the four Operations Research Societies DGOR, GM\OR, \GOR and SVOR, held in Vienna in 1990.
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  49. Tim Fuller (2012). Is Scientific Theory Change Similar to Early Cognitive Development? Gopnik on Science and Childhood. Philosophical Psychology 26 (1):109 - 128.
    (2013). Is scientific theory change similar to early cognitive development? Gopnik on science and childhood. Philosophical Psychology: Vol. 26, No. 1, pp. 109-128. doi: 10.1080/09515089.2011.625114.
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  50. Stefano Gattei (2008). Thomas Kuhn's 'Linguistic Turn' and the Legacy of Logical Empiricism: Incommensurability, Rationality and the Search for Truth. Ashgate Pub..
    Presenting a critical history of the philosophy of science in the twentieth century, focusing on the transition from logical positivism in its first half to the ...
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