Problems with formal models of epistemic entrenchment as applied to scientific theories

Synthese 122 (3):313 - 320 (2000)
Abstract
Formal models of theory contraction entered the philosophicalliterature with the prototype model by Alchourrón, Gärdenfors,and Makinson (Alchourrón et al. 1985). One influential modelinvolves theory contraction with respect to a relation calledepistemic entrenchment which orders the propositions of a theoryaccording to their relative degrees of theoretical importance.Various postulates have been suggested for characterizingepistemic entrenchment formally. I argue here that threesuggested postulates produce inappropriately bizarre results whenapplied to scientific theories. I argue that the postulates callednoncovering, continuing up, and continuing down, implyrespectively that, (i) no scientific law is more epistemicallyentrenched than any of its instances, (ii) two distinct instances ofthe same scientific law must have different degrees of epistemicentrenchment, and (iii) any two scientific laws must have differentdegrees of epistemic entrenchment. I also argue that continuingup and continuing down each lead to incoherency.
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