Coherence, Truth, and the Development of Scientific Knowledge

Philosophy of Science 74 (1):28-47 (2007)
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Abstract

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 is increasing its explanatory coherence in two key respects: broadening by explaining more phenomena and deepening by investigating layers of mechanisms. I sketch an explanation of why deepening is a good epistemic strategy and discuss the prospect of deepening knowledge in the social sciences and everyday life.

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Paul Thagard
University of Waterloo

Citations of this work

Bayesian Cognitive Science, Unification, and Explanation.Stephan Hartmann & Matteo Colombo - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (2).
Pursuit and inquisitive reasons.Will Fleisher - 2022 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 94 (C):17-30.
Models, Mechanisms, and Coherence.Matteo Colombo, Stephan Hartmann & Robert van Iersel - 2015 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 66 (1):181-212.

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