About this topic

Truth is the aim of inquiry, but what kind of truth is “scientific truth” is matter of debate. First of all: does scientific inquiry really aim at truth? Instrumentalists and anti-realists of various stripes would deny this. Even admitting that truth is the goal of scientific inquiry, are scientific theories and hypotheses “true” or “false” in the same way ordinary propositions are? What are the relations between “ordinary” truth and “scientific” truth, or between the “manifest image” and the “scientific image”? Other questions concern the nature of scientific truth: should we construe it as correspondence to facts, as realists do? Or is it better understood in a pragmatic and/or epistemic way, for instance as the ideal limit of inquiry or as ideal rational acceptability? Or, maybe, a deflationary approach to truth would be more appropriate? Moreover, it seems clear that, even if truth is one cognitive goal of inquiry, there are others as well: to mention but a few, accuracy, approximate truth, empirical adequacy, high probability, confirmation, truthlikeness or verisimilitude, knowledge, understanding, and so on. What are the relations between truth and these other “cognitive values” or “theoretical virtues”? Is there a unique set of values guiding all kinds of scientific activity, at all different levels (experimental, observational, theoretical, and so on)? Or different goals characterize different levels?

Key works

The ones above are some of the central issues at the core of the modern debate on scientific realism/antirealism. Popper 1962, 1972, 1983 defends a realist view of scientific progress and inquiry and a Tarskian view of truth as correspondence (Tarski 1943). In the same years, Sellars 1963 defends a strong form of realism influenced by the Perceian view of ideal science (Peirce 1931). Peirce’s thought is an inspiration for both critical and fallibilist realists like Niiniluoto 1999 and Musgrave 1993 and for anti-realists like Putnam 1981 and Rescher 1973, who defend epistemic or pragmatic views of scientific truth. Other anti-realists, like Van Fraassen Bas 1980, Laudan 1984 or Fine 1984, deny that truth has a relevant role to play in scientific methodology. Levi 1967 proposes a decision-theoretic view of inquiry where truth is one of the central cognitive ‘utilities’ at play; this ‘cognitive decision theory’ has been developed in different directions (Niiniluoto 1987). 


Niiniluoto 1999 provides an illuminating survey and discussion of the main positions in the realism/antirealism debate and of the corresponding conceptions of scientific truth. Another useful survey is in the first chapter of Kuipers 2000

Related categories

79 found
1 — 50 / 79
  1. added 2019-01-08
    Scientific Progress: Why Getting Closer to Truth is Not Enough.Moti Mizrahi - forthcoming - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science.
    The aim of this discussion note is to contribute to the ongoing debate over the nature of scientific progress. I argue against the semantic view of scientific progress, according to which scientific progress consists in approximation to truth or increasing verisimilitude. If the semantic view of scientific progress were true, then scientists would make scientific progress simply by arbitrarily adding true disjuncts to their hypotheses or theories. Given that it is not the case that scientists would make scientific progress simply (...)
  2. added 2019-01-07
    Empirical Progress and Truth Approximation by the ‘Hypothetico-Probabilistic Method’.Theo A. F. Kuipers - 2009 - Erkenntnis 70 (3):313-330.
    Three related intuitions are explicated in this paper. The first is the idea that there must be some kind of probabilistic version of the HD-method, a 'Hypothetico-Probabilistic method', in terms of something like probabilistic consequences, instead of deductive consequences. According to the second intuition, the comparative application of this method should also be functional for some probabilistic kind of empirical progress, and according to the third intuition this should be functional for something like probabilistic truth approximation. In all three cases, (...)
  3. added 2019-01-07
    Theories, Theoretical Models, Truth.Ryszard Wójcicki - 1995 - Foundations of Science 1 (4):337-406.
    This paper was written with two aims in mind. A large part of it is just an exposition of Tarski's theory of truth. Philosophers do not agree on how Tarski's theory is related to their investigations. Some of them doubt whether that theory has any relevance to philosophical issues and in particular whether it can be applied in dealing with the problems of philosophy (theory) of science.In this paper I argue that Tarski's chief concern was the following question. Suppose a (...)
  4. added 2019-01-07
    Approximative Truth and Depth as the Main Aims of Science.W. Krajewski - 1994 - Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science 160:119-119.
  5. added 2019-01-07
    Is Science Progressive. [REVIEW]Graham Oddie - 1987 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 38 (2):272-276.
  6. added 2018-12-19
    The Concept of Truth in a Historistic Theory of Science.Kurt Hübner - 1980 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 11 (2):145-151.
  7. added 2018-10-31
    The Bain of Two Truths.Vincent F. Hendricks - unknown
    A view among methodologists is that truth and convergence are related in such a way that scienti…c theories in their historical order of appearance contribute to the convergence to an ultimate ideal theory. It is not a fact that science develops accordingly but rather a hypothetical thought experiment to explain why science develops at all. Here, a simple formal model is presented for scrutinizing the relations between two truths and convergence.
  8. added 2018-10-31
    Realists Waiting for Godot? The Verisimilitudinarian and the Cumulative Approach to Scientific Progress.Andrea Roselli - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-14.
    After a brief presentation of the Verisimilitudinarian approach to scientific progress, I argue that the notion of estimated verisimilitude is too weak for the purposes of scientific realism. Despite the realist-correspondist intuition that inspires the model—the idea that our theories get closer and closer to ‘the real way the world is’—, Bayesian estimations of truthlikeness are not objective enough to sustain a realist position. The main argument of the paper is that, since estimated verisimilitude is not connected to actual verisimilitude, (...)
  9. added 2018-10-31
    Science and Partial Truth.Sr Joseph E. Earley - 2005 - Review of Metaphysics 59 (2):413-415.
  10. added 2018-10-31
    Beauty, A Road To The Truth.Theo Kuipers - 2002 - Synthese 131 (3):291-328.
    In this article I give a naturalistic-cum-formal analysis of the relation between beauty, empirical success, and truth. The analysis is based on the one hand on a hypothetical variant of the so-called 'mere-exposure effect' which has been more or less established in experimental psychology regarding exposure-affect relationships in general and aesthetic appreciation in particular. On the other hand it is based on the formal theory of truthlikeness and truth approximation as presented in my "From Instrumentalism to Constructive Realism". The analysis (...)
  11. added 2018-10-31
    Scientific Realism and the 'Pessimistic Induction'.Stathis Psillos - 1996 - Philosophy of Science 63 (5):S306-S314.
    Over the last two decades, the debate over scientific realism has been dominated by two arguments that pull in contrary directions: the 'no miracle' argument and the 'pessimistic induction'. The latter suggests that the historical record destroys the realist's belief in an explanatory connection between truthlikeness and genuine empirical success. This paper analyzes the structure of the 'pessimistic induction', presents a move--the divide et impera move--that neutralizes it, and motivates a substantive yet realistic version of scientific realism. This move is (...)
  12. added 2018-10-31
    The Structure of Theoretical Progress.Geoffrey Alexander Joseph Gorham - 1994 - Dissertation, University of Minnesota
    I develop a new theory of theoretical progress or 'truthlikeness'. Unlike previous theories, my approach focuses on the sets of models of scientific theories, rather than their linguistic formulations. Such an approach, I argue, avoids several long-standing problems in the philosophy of theoretical progress. I find in Chapter One that the most prominent schools of twentieth century philosophy of science have all failed to account for theoretical progress. I further argue that such an account is an essential element of the (...)
  13. added 2018-10-31
    Realism, Relativism, and Constructivism.Ilkka Niiniluoto - 1991 - Synthese 89 (1):135 - 162.
    This paper gives a critical evaluation of the philosophical presuppositions and implications of two current schools in the sociology of knowledge: the Strong Programme of Bloor and Barnes; and the Constructivism of Latour and Knorr-Cetina. Bloor's arguments for his externalist symmetry thesis (i.e., scientific beliefs must always be explained by social factors) are found to be incoherent or inconclusive. At best, they suggest a Weak Programme of the sociology of science: when theoretical preferences in a scientific community, SC, are first (...)
  14. added 2018-10-31
    On a Dogma Concerning Realism and Incommensurability.Graham Oddie - 1988 - In R. Nola (ed.), Relativism and Realism in Science. Reidel. pp. 169-293.
  15. added 2018-10-31
    On The Concept Of Truth In A Historistic Theory Of Science.Kurt Hubner - 1980 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 11 (June):145-152.
  16. added 2018-05-24
    Scientific Realism with Correspondence Truth: A Reply to Asay (2018).Brian D. Haig & Denny Borsboom - 2018 - Theory and Psychology 28 (3):398-404.
    Asay (2018) criticizes our contention that psychologists do best to adhere to a substantive theory of correspondence truth. He argues that deflationary theory can serve the same purposes as correspondence theory. In the present article we argue that (a) scientific realism, broadly construed, requires a version of correspondence theory and (b) contrary to Asay’s suggestion, correspondence theory does have important additional resources over deflationary accounts in its ability to support generalizations over classes of true sentences.
  17. added 2018-05-21
    The Concept of Truth in Feminist Sciences.Geoffrey Gorham - 1995 - Hypatia 10 (3):99 - 116.
    If we view the aim of feminist science as truthlikeness, instead of either absolute or relative truth, then we can explain the sense in which the feminist sciences bring an objective advance in knowledge without implicating One True Theory. I argue that a certain non-linguistic theory of truthlikeness is especially well-suited to this purpose and complements the feminist epistemologies of Harding, Haraway, and Longino.
  18. added 2018-02-10
    Value, Reality, and Desire – by Graham Oddie.Debbie Roberts - 2010 - Ratio 23 (1):118-122.
  19. added 2018-02-10
    Coherence, Truth, and the Development of Scientific Knowledge.Paul Thagard - 2007 - Philosophy of Science 74 (1):28-47.
    What is the relation between coherence and truth? This paper rejects numerous answers to this question, including the following: truth is coherence; coherence is irrelevant to truth; coherence always leads to truth; coherence leads to probability, which leads to truth. I will argue that coherence of the right kind leads to at least approximate truth. The right kind is explanatory coherence, where explanation consists in describing mechanisms. We can judge that a scientific theory is progressively approximating the truth if it (...)
  20. added 2018-02-10
    Theory and Truth: Philosophical Critique Within Foundational Science.Lawrence Sklar - 2000 - Oxford University Press.
    Skeptics have cast doubt on the idea that scientific theories give us a true picture of an objective world. Lawrence Sklar examines three kinds of skeptical arguments about scientific truth, and explores the important role they play within foundational science itself. Sklar demonstrates that these kinds of philosophical critique are employed within science, and reveals the clear difference between how they operate in a scientific context and more abstract philosophical contexts. The underlying theme of Theory and Truth is that science (...)
  21. added 2018-02-10
    Philosophers Against “Truth”: The Cases of Harr and Laudan.A. Paya - 1995 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 9 (3):255 – 284.
    The criticisms levelled at the notion of truth by an anti‐realist (Larry Laudan) and an entity‐realist (Rom Harré) are critically examined. The upshot of the discussion will be that whilst neither of the two anti‐truth philosophers have succeeded in establishing their cases against truth, for entity‐realists to reject the notion of truth is to throw out the baby with the bath water: entity‐realism without the notion of correspondence truth will degenerate into anti‐realism.
  22. added 2018-02-10
    Connaissance Sensible Et Approximation.Jules Vuillemin - 1991 - Annals of the Japan Association for Philosophy of Science 8 (1):1-16.
  23. added 2018-02-10
    Likeness to Truth.Graham Oddie - 1986 - Reidel.
    What does it take for one proposition to be closer to the truth than another. In this, the first published monograph on the topic, Oddie develops a comprehensive theory that takes the likeness in truthlikeness seriously.
  24. added 2018-02-10
    Popper and After: Four Modern Irrationalists.D. C. Stove - 1982 - Pergamon Press.
  25. added 2018-02-08
    Truth and Truthlikeness.Graham Oddie - forthcoming - In Glanzberg M. (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Truth. Oxford University Press.
  26. added 2018-02-02
    Representation and Truthlikeness.Ilkka Niiniluoto - 2014 - Foundations of Science 19 (4):375-379.
    Woosuk Park’s paper “Misrepresentation in Context” is a useful plea for a theory of representation with promising interaction between cognitive science, philosophy of science, and aesthetics. In this paper, I argue that such a unified account is provided by Charles S. Peirce’s semiotics. This theory puts Park’s criticism of Nelson Goodman and Jerry Fodor in context. Some of Park’s pertinent remarks on the problem of misrepresentation can be illuminated by the account of truthlikeness and idealization developed by philosophers of science.
  27. added 2018-02-02
    Verisimilitude: A Causal Approach.Robert Northcott - 2013 - Synthese 190 (9):1471-1488.
    I present a new definition of verisimilitude, framed in terms of causes. Roughly speaking, according to it a scientific model is approximately true if it captures accurately the strengths of the causes present in any given situation. Against much of the literature, I argue that any satisfactory account of verisimilitude must inevitably restrict its judgments to context-specific models rather than general theories. We may still endorse—and only need—a relativized notion of scientific progress, understood now not as global advance but rather (...)
  28. added 2018-02-02
    Truth Approximation by Empirical and Aesthetic Criteria: Reply to David Miller.Theo A. F. Kuipers - 2005 - Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities 83 (1):356-360.
    Polish version, see Kuipers (2002) "O dwóch rodzajach idealizcji I konkretyzacki. Przypadek aproksymacji prawdy".
  29. added 2018-02-02
    Inductive Inference in the Limit of Empirically Adequate Theories.Bernhard Lauth - 1995 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 24 (5):525 - 548.
    Most standard results on structure identification in first order theories depend upon the correctness and completeness (in the limit) of the data, which are provided to the learner. These assumption are essential for the reliability of inductive methods and for their limiting success (convergence to the truth). The paper investigates inductive inference from (possibly) incorrect and incomplete data. It is shown that such methods can be reliable not in the sense of truth approximation, but in the sense that the methods (...)
  30. added 2018-02-02
    Partial Convergence and Approximate Truth.Duncan Macintosh - 1994 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 45 (1):153-170.
    Scientific Realists argue that it would be a miracle if scientific theories were getting more predictive without getting closer to the truth; so they must be getting closer to the truth. Van Fraassen, Laudan et al. argue that owing to the underdetermination of theory by data (UDT) for all we know, it is a miracle, a fluke. So we should not believe in even the approximate truth of theories. I argue that there is a test for who is right: suppose (...)
  31. added 2018-02-02
    Using Scott Domains to Explicate the Notions of Approximate and Idealized Data.Ronald Laymon - 1987 - Philosophy of Science 54 (2):194-221.
    This paper utilizes Scott domains (continuous lattices) to provide a mathematical model for the use of idealized and approximately true data in the testing of scientific theories. Key episodes from the history of science can be understood in terms of this model as attempts to demonstrate that theories are monotonic, that is, yield better predictions when fed better or more realistic data. However, as we show, monotonicity and truth of theories are independent notions. A formal description is given of the (...)
  32. added 2018-02-02
    Pragmatic Truth and Approximation to Truth.Irene Mikenberg, Newton C. A. Costa & Rolando Chuaqui - 1986 - Journal of Symbolic Logic 51 (1):201-221.
  33. added 2018-02-01
    In Defense of the Notion of Truthlikeness.Ingvar Johansson - 2017 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 48 (1):59-69.
    The notion of truthlikeness, coined by Karl Popper, has very much fallen into oblivion, but the paper defends it. It can be regarded in two different ways. Either as a notion that is meaningful only if some formal measure of degree of truthlikeness can be constructed; or as a merely non-formal comparative notion that nonetheless has important functions to fulfill. It is the latter notion that is defended; it is claimed that such a notion is needed for both a reasonable (...)
  34. added 2018-02-01
    Models, Postulates, and Generalized Nomic Truth Approximation.Theo Kuipers - 2016 - Synthese 193 (10).
    The qualitative theory of nomic truth approximation, presented in Kuipers in his, in which ‘the truth’ concerns the distinction between nomic, e.g. physical, possibilities and impossibilities, rests on a very restrictive assumption, viz. that theories always claim to characterize the boundary between nomic possibilities and impossibilities. Fully recognizing two different functions of theories, viz. excluding and representing, this paper drops this assumption by conceiving theories in development as tuples of postulates and models, where the postulates claim to exclude nomic impossibilities (...)
  35. added 2018-02-01
    Empirical Progress and Nomic Truth Approximation Revisited.Theo Kuipers - 2014 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 46:64-72.
    In my From Instrumentalism to Constructive Realism I have shown how an instrumentalist account of empirical progress can be related to nomic truth approximation. However, it was assumed that a strong notion of nomic theories was needed for that analysis. In this paper it is shown, in terms of truth and falsity content, that the analysis already applies when, in line with scientific common sense, nomic theories are merely assumed to exclude certain conceptual possibilities as nomic possibilities.
  36. added 2018-02-01
    Empirical Progress and Nomic Truth Approximation Revisited.Theo A. F. Kuipers - 2012 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 46:64-72.
  37. added 2018-02-01
    Theory Status, Inductive Realism, and Approximate Truth: No Miracles, No Charades.Shelby D. Hunt - 2011 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 25 (2):159 - 178.
    The concept of approximate truth plays a prominent role in most versions of scientific realism. However, adequately conceptualizing ?approximate truth? has proved challenging. This article argues that the goal of articulating the concept of approximate truth can be advanced by first investigating the processes by which science accords theories the status of accepted or rejected. Accordingly, this article uses a path diagram model as a visual heuristic for the purpose of showing the processes in science that are involved in determining (...)
  38. added 2018-02-01
    Convergence to the Truth and Nothing but the Truth.Kevin T. Kelly & Clark Glymour - 1989 - Philosophy of Science 56 (2):185-220.
    One construal of convergent realism is that for each clear question, scientific inquiry eventually answers it. In this paper we adapt the techniques of formal learning theory to determine in a precise manner the circumstances under which this ideal is achievable. In particular, we define two criteria of convergence to the truth on the basis of evidence. The first, which we call EA convergence, demands that the theorist converge to the complete truth "all at once". The second, which we call (...)
  39. added 2018-02-01
    Approximative Truth of Fact-Statements, Laws, and Theories.Władysław Krajewski - 1978 - Synthese 38 (2):275 - 279.
    The paper is a sketch of a conception of approximative truth (or verisimilitude). The concepts of relative error, and degree of inadequacy are introduced. By means of them the concept of truth-content of quantitative facts-statements, laws and theories is defined. Laws and theories accepted in science have a high truth-content, i.e. they are approximately true.
  40. added 2018-01-28
    From Instrumentalism to Constructive Realism: On Some Relations Between Confirmation, Empirical Progress, and Truth Approximation.T. A. F. Kuipers - 2000 - Springer.
  41. added 2018-01-28
    Critical Scientific Realism.Ilkka Niiniluoto - 1999 - Oxford University Press.
    This book comes to the rescue of scientific realism, showing that reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated. Philosophical realism holds that the aim of a particular discourse is to make true statements about its subject matter. Ilkka Niiniluoto surveys different kinds of realism in various areas of philosophy and then sets out his own critical realist philosophy of science.
  42. added 2018-01-28
    Common Sense, Science and Scepticism: A Historical Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge.Alan Musgrave - 1993 - Cambridge University Press.
    Can we know anything for certain? There are those who think we can (traditionally labeled the "dogmatists") and those who think we cannot (traditionally labeled the "skeptics"). The theory of knowledge, or epistemology, is the great debate between the two. This book is an introductory and historically-based survey of the debate. It sides for the most part with the skeptics. It also develops out of skepticism a third view, fallibilism or critical rationalism, which incorporates an uncompromising realism about perception, science, (...)
  43. added 2018-01-28
    Truthlikeness.Ilkka Niiniluoto - 1987 - Dordrecht: Reidel.
    The modern discussion on the concept of truthlikeness was started in 1960. In his influential Word and Object, W. V. O. Quine argued that Charles Peirce's definition of truth as the limit of inquiry is faulty for the reason that the notion 'nearer than' is only "defined for numbers and not for theories". In his contribution to the 1960 International Congress for Logic, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science at Stan­ ford, Karl Popper defended the opposite view by defining a compara­tive (...)
  44. added 2018-01-28
    The Natural Ontological Attitude.Arthur I. Fine - 1984 - In J. Leplin (ed.), Scientific Realism. University of California Press. pp. 261--77.
  45. added 2018-01-28
    Science and Values: The Aims of Science and Their Role in Scientific Debate.Larry Laudan - 1984 - University of California Press.
    Laudan constructs a fresh approach to a longtime problem for the philosopher of science: how to explain the simultaneous and widespread presence of both agreement and disagreement in science. Laudan critiques the logical empiricists and the post-positivists as he stresses the need for centrality and values and the interdependence of values, methods, and facts as prerequisites to solving the problems of consensus and dissent in science.
  46. added 2018-01-28
    Reason, Truth and History.Hilary Putnam - 1981 - Cambridge University Press.
    Hilary Putnam deals in this book with some of the most fundamental persistent problems in philosophy: the nature of truth, knowledge and rationality. His aim is to break down the fixed categories of thought which have always appeared to define and constrain the permissible solutions to these problems.
  47. added 2018-01-28
    The Scientific Image.C. Van Fraassen Bas - 1980 - Oxford University Press.
    In this book van Fraassen develops an alternative to scientific realism by constructing and evaluating three mutually reinforcing theories.
  48. added 2018-01-28
    Conceptual Idealism.Nicholas Rescher - 1973 - Blackwell.
  49. added 2018-01-28
    Science, Perception, and Reality.Wilfrid Sellars - 1963 - New York: Humanities Press.
  50. added 2018-01-28
    The Semantic Conception of Truth and the Foundations of Semantics.Alfred Tarski - 1943 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 4 (3):341-376.
1 — 50 / 79