This paper is a critique of Contessa’s (in the same issue). First, I show that Popper in The Logic of Scientific Discovery argues against the view that the logical probability of a hypothesis is identical to its degree of confirmation (or corroboration), rather than against Bayesianism. Second, I explain that his argument to this effect does not depend on the assumption that ‘the universe is infinite’. Third, and finally, I refine Popper’s case by developing an argument which requires only that (...) some universal laws have a logical probability of zero relative to any finite evidence, and providing an example concerning Newtonian mechanics. (shrink)
In a recent contribution to Learning for Democracy, Richard Bailey argues that Thomas Kuhn advocated an indoctrinatory model of science education, which is fundamentally authority-based. While agreeing with Bailey’s conclusion, this article suggests that Kuhn was attempting to solve an important problem which Bailey only touches on – how to ensure that science students do not become hypercritical. It continues by offering a critical rationalist solution to this problem, arguing that paradigms qua exemplars should be historical problem-solving episodes, rather than (...) model solutions to puzzles. (shrink)
This article explores the practical significance of the notion of ‘World 3’ – a domain of abstract entities – for inquiry and education. First, it explains how ‘objectifying’ our thoughts and statements, viz. treating them as if they are objective, can help in inquiry to: promote impartiality towards ideas on the basis of their source and the manner in which they are presented; enable more effective communication; and encourage wider participation in debates. Second, the article examines how ‘objectification’ can be (...) useful in group learning scenarios, insofar as these involve group inquiry. (shrink)
This paper argues that talk of ‘the aim of science’ should be avoided in the philosophy of science, with special reference to the way that van Fraassen sets up the difference between scientific realism and constructive empiricism. It also argues that talking instead of ‘what counts as success in science as such’ is unsatisfactory. The paper concludes by showing what this talk may be profitably replaced with, namely specific claims concerning science that fall into the following categories: descriptive, evaluative, normative, (...) and definitional. There are two key advantages to this proposal. First, realism and its competitors may be understood to consist of highly nuanced variants. Second, scientific realism and its competitors may be understood as something other than ‘all or nothing’ theses about science. More particularly, one may accept that there are general claims concerning science in some of the identified categories, but deny that there are such claims in the others. (shrink)
This paper responds to Achinstein’s criticism of the thesis that the only empirical fact that can affect the truth of an objective evidence claim such as ‘e is evidence for h’ (or ‘e confirms h to degree r’) is the truth of e. It shows that cases involving evidential flaws, which form the basis for Achinstein’s objections to the thesis, can satisfactorily be accounted for by appeal to changes in background information and working assumptions. The paper also argues that the (...) a priori and empirical accounts of evidence are on a par when we consider scientific practice, but that a study of artificial intelligence might serve to differentiate them. (shrink)
I argue that so-called 'background knowledge' in confirmation theory has little, if anything, to do with 'knowledge' in the sense of mainstream epistemology. I argue that it is better construed as 'background information', which need not be believed in, justified, or true.
This paper is a supplement to, and provides a proof of principle of, Kuhn vs. Popper on Criticism and Dogmatism in Science: A Resolution at the Group Level. It illustrates how calculations may be performed in order to determine how the balance between different functions in science—such as imaginative, critical, and dogmatic—should be struck, with respect to confirmation (or corroboration) functions and rules of scientific method.
This paper shows that Popper’s measure of corroboration is inapplicable if, as Popper also argued, the logical probability of synthetic universal statements is zero relative to any evidence that we might possess. It goes on to show that Popper’s definition of degree of testability, in terms of degree of logical content, suffers from a similar problem.
This paper shows that Bertrand's proposed 'solutions' to his own question, which generates his chord paradox, are inapplicable. It uses a simple analogy with cake cutting. The problem is that none of Bertrand's solutions considers all possible cuts. This is no solace for the defenders of the principle of indifference, however, because it emerges that the paradox is harder to solve than previously anticipated.
In this article, I present some new group level interpretations of probability, and champion one in particular: a consensus-based variant where group degrees of belief are construed as agreed upon betting quotients rather than shared personal degrees of belief. One notable feature of the account is that it allows us to treat consensus between experts on some matter as being on the union of their relevant background information. In the course of the discussion, I also introduce a novel distinction between (...) intersubjective and interobjective interpretations of probability. (shrink)
This paper offers a novel ‘changing places’ account of identification in games, where the consequences of role swapping are crucial. First, it illustrates how such an account is consistent with the view, in classical game theory, that only outcomes (and not pathways) are significant. Second, it argues that this account is superior to the ‘pooled resources’ alternative when it comes to dealing with some situations in which many players identify. Third, it shows how such a ‘changing places’ account can be (...) used in games where some of the players identify with one another, but others do not. Finally, it illustrates how the model can handle the notion that identification comes in degrees. (shrink)
This paper investigates whether there is a discrepancy between the stated and actual aims in biomechanical research, particularly with respect to hypothesis testing. We present an analysis of one hundred papers recently published in The Journal of Experimental Biology and Journal of Biomechanics, and examine the prevalence of papers which (a) have hypothesis testing as a stated aim, (b) contain hypothesis testing claims that appear to be purely presentational (i.e. which seem not to have influenced the actual study), and (c) (...) have exploration as a stated aim. We found that whereas no papers had exploration as a stated aim, 58% of papers had hypothesis testing as a stated aim. We had strong suspicions, at the bare minimum, that presentational hypotheses were present in 31% of the papers in this latter group. (shrink)
This paper, which is based on recent empirical research at the University of Leeds, the University of Edinburgh, and the University of Bristol, presents two difficulties which arise when condensed matter physicists interact with molecular biologists: (1) the former use models which appear to be too coarse-grained, approximate and/or idealized to serve a useful scientific purpose to the latter; and (2) the latter have a rather narrower view of what counts as an experiment, particularly when it comes to computer simulations, (...) than the former. It argues that these findings are related; that computer simulations are considered to be undeserving of experimental status, by molecular biologists, precisely because of the idealizations and approximations that they involve. The complexity of biological systems is a key factor. The paper concludes by critically examining whether the new research programme of ‘systems biology’ offers a genuine alternative to the modelling strategies used by physicists. It argues that it does not. (shrink)
Popper repeatedly emphasised the significance of a critical attitude, and a related critical method, for scientists. Kuhn, however, thought that unquestioning adherence to the theories of the day is proper; at least for ‘normal scientists’. In short, the former thought that dominant theories should be attacked, whereas the latter thought that they should be developed and defended (for the vast majority of the time). -/- Both seem to have missed a trick, however, due to their apparent insistence that each individual (...) scientist should fulfil similar functions (at any given point in time). The trick is to consider science at the group level; and doing so shows how puzzle solving and ‘offensive’ critical activity can simultaneously have a legitimate place in science. This analysis shifts the focus of the debate. The crucial question becomes ‘How should the balance between functions be struck?’. (shrink)
Popper’s Critical Rationalism presents Popper’s views on science, knowledge, and inquiry, and examines the significance and tenability of these in light of recent developments in philosophy of science, philosophy of probability, and epistemology. It develops a fresh and novel philosophical position on science, which employs key insights from Popper while rejecting other elements of his philosophy. -/- Central theses include: -/- Crucial questions about scientific method arise at the level of the group, rather than that of the individual. -/- Although (...) criticism is vital for science, dogmatism is important too. -/- Belief in scientific theories is permissible even in the absence of evidence in their favour. -/- The aim of science is to eliminate false theories. -/- Critical rationalism can be understood as a form of virtue epistemology -/- Contents: -/- Ch.1 Comprehensive rationalism, critical rationalism, and pancritical rationalism -- Ch.2 Induction and corroboration -- Ch.3 Corroboration and the interpretation of probability -- Ch.4 Corroboration, tests, and predictivism -- Ch.5 Corroboration and Duhem's thesis -- Ch.6 The roles of criticism and dogmatism in science: a group level view -- Ch.7 The aim of science and its evolution -- Ch.8 Thoughts and findings. (shrink)
This paper compares and contrasts the concept of a stance with that of a paradigm qua disciplinary matrix, in an attempt to illuminate both notions. First, it considers to what extent it is appropriate to draw an analogy between stances (which operate at the level of the individual) and disciplinary matrices (which operate at the level of the community). It suggests that despite first appearances, a disciplinary matrix is not simply a stance writ large. Second, it examines how we might (...) reinterpret disciplinary matrices in terms of stances, and shows how doing so can provide us with a better insight into non-revolutionary science. Finally, it identifies two directions for future research: “Can the rationality of scientific revolutions be understood in terms of the dynamic between stances and paradigms?” and “Do stances help us to understand incommensurability between disciplinary matrices?”. (shrink)
This paper develops a new version of instrumentalism, in light of progress in the realism debate in recent decades, and thereby defends the view that instrumentalism remains a viable philosophical position on science. The key idea is that talk of unobservable objects should be taken literally only when those objects are assigned properties (or described in terms of analogies involving things) with which we are experientially (or otherwise) acquainted. This is derivative from the instrumentalist tradition in so far as the (...) distinction between unobservable and observable is taken to have significance with respect to meaning. (shrink)
How should educational research be contracted? And is there anything wrong with the way that public funding of educational research is currently administered? We endeavour to answer these questions by appeal to the work of two of the most prominent philosophers of science of the twentieth century, namely Popper and Kuhn. Although their normative views of science are radically different, we show that they would nonetheless agree on a number of key rules concerning the extent to which scientific practice should (...) be influenced ‘from the outside’. We then show that these rules are often broken in the way that research is publicly funded in the UK. (shrink)
We have three goals in this paper. First, we outline an ontology of stance, and explain the role that modes of engagement and styles of reasoning play in the characterization of a stance. Second, we argue that we do enjoy a degree of control over the modes of engagement and styles of reasoning we adopt. Third, we contend that maximizing one’s prospects for change (within the framework of other constraints, e.g., beliefs, one has) also maximizes one’s rationality.
We offer an overview of some ways of examining the connections between stance and rationality, by surveying recent work on four central topics: (a) the very idea of a stance, (b) the relations between stances and voluntarism, (c) the metaphysics and epistemology that emerge once stances are brought to center stage, and (d) the role that emotions and phenomenology play in the empirical stance.
This paper argues that Duhem’s thesis does not decisively refute a corroboration-based account of scientific methodology (or ‘falsificationism’), but instead that auxiliary hypotheses are themselves subject to measurements of corroboration which can be used to inform practice. It argues that a corroboration-based account is equal to the popular Bayesian alternative, which has received much more recent attention, in this respect.
Both Popper and van Fraassen have used evolutionary analogies to defend their views on the aim of science, although these are diametrically opposed. By employing Price's equation in an illustrative capacity, this paper considers which view is better supported. It shows that even if our observations and experimental results are reliable, an evolutionary analogy fails to demonstrate why conjecture and refutation should result in: (1) the isolation of true theories; (2) successive generations of theories of increasing truth-likeness; (3) empirically adequate (...) theories; or (4) successive generations of theories of increasing proximity to empirical adequacy. Furthermore, it illustrates that appeals to induction do not appear to help. It concludes that an evolutionary analogy is only sufficient to defend the notion that the aim of science is to isolate a particular class of false theories, namely those that are empirically inadequate. (shrink)
This paper challenges Bird’s view that scientific progress should be understood in terms of knowledge, by arguing that unjustified scientific beliefs (and/or changes in belief) may nevertheless be progressive. It also argues that false beliefs may promote progress.
Bangu (2010) claims that Bertrand’s paradox rests on a hitherto unrecognized assumption, which assumption is sufficiently dubious to throw the burden of proof back onto ‘objectors to [the principle of indifference]’ (2010: 31). We show that Bangu’s objection to the assumption is ill-founded and that the assumption is provably true.
We argue that the inference from dispositional essentialism about a property (in the broadest sense) to the metaphysical necessity of laws involving it is invalid. Let strict dispositional essentialism be any view according to which any given property’s dispositional character is precisely the same across all possible worlds. Clearly, any version of strict dispositional essentialism rules out worlds with different laws involving that property. Permissive dispositional essentialism is committed to a property’s identity being tied to its dispositional profile or causal (...) role, yet is compatible with moderate interworld variation in a property’s dispositional profile. We provide such a model of dispositional essentialism about a property and metaphysical contingency of the laws involving it. (shrink)
In Making Sense of Life , Keller emphasizes several differences between biology and physics. Her analysis focuses on significant ways in which modelling practices in some areas of biology, especially developmental biology, differ from those of the physical sciences. She suggests that natural models and modelling by homology play a central role in the former but not the latter. In this paper, I focus instead on those practices that are importantly similar, from the point of view of epistemology and cognitive (...) science. I argue that concrete and abstract models are significant in both disciplines, that there are shared selection criteria for models in physics and biology, e.g. familiarity, and that modelling often occurs in a similar fashion. (shrink)
Hájek has recently presented the following paradox. You are certain that a cable guy will visit you tomorrow between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. but you have no further information about when. And you agree to a bet on whether he will come in the morning interval (8, 12] or in the afternoon interval (12, 4). At first, you have no reason to prefer one possibility rather than the other. But you soon realise that there will definitely be a future (...) time at which you will (rationally) assign higher probability to an afternoon arrival than a morning one, due to time elapsing. You are also sure there may not be a future time at which you will (rationally) assign a higher probability to a morning arrival than an afternoon one. It would therefore appear that you ought to bet on an afternoon arrival. The paradox is based on the apparent incompatibility of the principle of expected utility and principles of diachronic rationality which are prima facie plausible. Hájek concludes that the latter are false, but doesn't provide a clear diagnosis as to why. We endeavour to further our understanding of the paradox by providing such a diagnosis. (shrink)
This paper provides a rationale for advocating pancritical rationalism. First, it argues that the advocate of critical rationalism may accept (but not be internally justified in accepting) that there is ‘justification’ in an externalist sense, specifically that certain procedures can track truth, and suggest that this recognition should inform practice; that one should try to determine which sources and methods are appropriate for various aspects of inquiry, and to what extent they are. Second, it argues that if there is external (...) justification, then a critical rationalist is better off than a dogmatist from an evolutionary perspective. (shrink)
In a recent contribution to Grazer Philosophische Studien, Booth argues that for S to have an epistemic reason to ψ means that if S ψ's then he will have more true beliefs and less false beliefs than if he does not ψ. After strengthening this external account in response to the objection that one can improve one's epistemic state in other fashions, e.g. by having a gain in true beliefs which outweighs one's gain in false beliefs, I provide a challenge (...) to it. My main objection, which I advance with the aid of several examples, is that such epistemic reasons could not motivate any action whatsoever. I close by developing an alternative account, which avoids this problem by appeal to internal considerations. (shrink)
How are we to understand the use of probability in corroboration functions? Popper says logically, but does not show we could have access to, or even calculate, probability values in a logical sense. This makes the logical interpretation untenable, as Ramsey and van Fraassen have argued. -/- If corroboration functions only make sense when the probabilities employed therein are subjective, however, then what counts as impressive evidence for a theory might be a matter of convention, or even whim. So isn’t (...) so-called ‘corroboration’ just a matter of psychology? -/- In this paper, I argue that we can go some way towards addressing this objection by adopting an intersubjective interpretation, of the form advocated by Gillies, with respect to corroboration. I show why intersubjective probabilities are preferable to subjective ones when it comes to decision making in science: why group decisions are liable to be superior to individual ones, given a number of plausible conditions. I then argue that intersubjective corroboration is preferable to intersubjective confirmation of a Bayesian variety, because there is greater opportunity for principled agreement concerning the factors involved in the former. (shrink)
This paper challenges a recent argument of Bird’s, which involves imagining that Réné Blondlot’s belief in N-rays was true, in favour of the view that scientific progress should be understood in terms of knowledge rather than truth. By considering several variants of Bird’s thought-experiment, it shows that the semantic account of progress cannot be so easily vanquished. A key possibility is that justification is only instrumental in, and not partly constitutive of, progress.
In his Bayesian Nets and Causality, Jon Williamson presents an ‘Objective Bayesian’ interpretation of probability, which he endeavours to distance from the logical interpretation yet associate with the subjective interpretation. In doing so, he suggests that the logical interpretation suffers from severe epistemological problems that do not affect his alternative. In this paper, I present a challenge to his analysis. First, I closely examine the relationship between the logical and ‘Objective Bayesian’ views, and show how, and why, they are highly (...) similar. Second, I argue that the logical interpretation is not manifestly inferior, at least for the reasons that Williamson offers. I suggest that the key difference between the logical and ‘Objective Bayesian’ views is in the domain of the philosophy of logic; and that the genuine disagreement appears to be over Platonism versus nominalism (within weak psychologism). (shrink)
From a logical point of view, permissibility can be reduced to possibility by introducing demands which can be met. The alleged reduction is circular from a philosophical perspective, however, because demands are fundamentally deontic. This paper solves this problem by replacing demands which can be met with rules which can be satisfied and violated.
This paper presents a new 'discontinuous' view of Popper's theory of corroboration, where theories cease to have corroboration values when new severe tests are devised which have not yet been performed, on the basis of a passage from The Logic of Scientific Discovery . Through subsequent analysis and discussion, a novel problem for Popper's account of corroboration, which holds also for the standard ('continuous') view, emerges. This is the problem of the Big Test: that the severest test of (...) any hypothesis is actually to perform all possible tests (when 'possible' is suitably interpreted). But this means that Popper's demand for 'the severest tests' amounts simply to a demand for 'all possible tests'. The paper closes by considering how this bears on accommodation vs. prediction, with respect to corroboration. (shrink)
This paper shows that so-called ‘threshold concepts’ have been defined in a way that makes it impossible, even in principle, to empirically isolate them. It continues by proposing an alternative theoretical framework, and argues: (1) that concepts are not reducible to abilities; (2) that acquisition of a given concept can be necessary, but not sufficient, for the possession of an ability; and (3) that being ‘threshold’ is an extrinsic property, such that what is threshold for one person is not for (...) another. It closes by outlining two resultant problems for related empirical research. First, how is it possible to test for concepts, rather than abilities? Second, how can we tell if there is more than one possible conceptual route to the same ability? (shrink)
Schwitzgebel (2001) — henceforth 'S' — offers three examples in order to convince us that there are situations in which individuals are neither accurately describable as believing that p or failing to so believe, but are rather in 'in-between states of belief'. He then argues that there are no 'Bayesian' or representational strategies for explicating these, and proposes a dispositional account. I do not have any fundamental objection to the idea that there might be 'in-between states of belief'. What I (...) shall argue, rather, is that: (I) S does not provide a convincing argument that there really are such states; (II) S does not show, as he claims, that 'in-between states of belief' could not be accounted for in terms of degrees of belief; (III) S’s dispositional account of 'in-between states of belief' is more problematic than the 'degree of belief' alternative. (shrink)
It is a common view that the axioms of probability can be derived from the following assumptions: (a) probabilities reflect (rational) degrees of belief, (b) degrees of belief can be measured as betting quotients; and (c) a rational agent must select betting quotients that are coherent. In this paper, I argue that a consideration of reasonable betting behaviour, with respect to the alleged derivation of the first axiom of probability, suggests that (b) and (c) are incorrect. In particular, I show (...) how a rational agent might assign a ‘probability’ of zero to an event which she is sure will occur. (shrink)
Van Fraassen has recently argued that empiricism can be construed as a stance, involving commitments, attitudes, values, and goals, in addition to beliefs and opinions. But this characterisation emerges from his recognition that to be an empiricist can not be to believe, or decide to commit to belief in, a foundational proposition, without removing any basis for a non-dogmatic empiricist critique of other philosophical approaches, such as materialism. However, noticeable by its absence in Van Fraassen's discussions is any mention of (...) Bartley's ‘pancritical rationalism’, for Bartley offers a cohesive argument that genuine dogmatism lies precisely in the act of commitment to an idea. The consequence of denying this, he thinks, is an opening of the floodgates to irrationalism: if to rely on reasoned argument in decision-making is fundamentally an act of faith, then there is a tu quoque – “I simply have a different faith” – that may be employed by those who wish to shield their views from criticism. This raises the following question: why should it be any less dogmatic to adopt particular commitments, attitudes, values, and goals, rather than a particular belief or opinion, come what may? And if Bartley is right that there is only one non-dogmatic attitude – the critical attitude – then why might this not be adopted by an empiricist, a materialist, a metaphysician, or anyone else? (shrink)