What is Wrong with Verisimilitude

Philosophy Research Archives 10:511-541 (1984)
Karl Popper introduced the idea of verisimilitude to explicate the intuitive idea that a theory T2, even though it is strictly speaking false, may be closer to the truth than a competitor T1. However, as is now well known, the results of Pavel Tichý, John Harris and David Miller establish that on Popper’s qualitative theory of verisimilitude, a theory T2 could be closer to the truth than another theory T1 only if T2 contains no false sentences. This result has been taken universally to show the inadequacy of Popper’s original account of verisimilitude, since the Miller-Tichý-Harris Theorem conflicts with the very basic intuition which first led Popper to formulate his theory.In this paper I shall first review the Miller-Tichý-Harris Theorem and examine a number of attempts to salvage the concept of verisimilitude. It will be argued that none of these attempts is successful. Finally an alternative, simple and intuitively satisfactory account of verisimilitude will be offered. This account will be along the lines first suggested by Popper, but it is not subject to any known limitation theorem. Further, the account is capable of giving verisimilitude orderings between not only scientific theories, but philosophical theories as well. This will be achieved without the use of the excessive formalism which dominates the contemporary verisimilitude research programs.
Keywords Contemporary Philosophy  History of Philosophy
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ISBN(s) 0164-0771
DOI 10.5840/pra19841020
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