Assessing Theories: The Coherentist Approach

Erkenntnis 79 (3):593-623 (2014)
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Abstract
In this paper we show that the coherence measures of Olsson (J Philos 94:246–272, 2002), Shogenji (Log Anal 59:338–345, 1999), and Fitelson (Log Anal 63:194–199, 2003) satisfy the two most important adequacy requirements for the purpose of assessing theories. Following Hempel (Synthese 12:439–469, 1960), Levi (Gambling with truth, New York, A. A. Knopf, 1967), and recently Huber (Synthese 161:89–118, 2008) we require, as minimal or necessary conditions, that adequate assessment functions favor true theories over false theories and true and informative theories over true but uninformative theories. We then demonstrate that the coherence measures of Olsson, Shogenji, and Fitelson satisfy these minimal conditions if we confront the hypotheses with a separating sequence of observational statements. In the concluding remarks we set out the philosophical relevance, and limitations, of the formal results. Inter alia, we discuss the problematic implications of our precondition that competing hypotheses must be confronted with a separating sequence of observational statements, which also leads us to discuss theory assessment in the context of scientific antirealism
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