What is relative confirmation?

Noûs 31 (3):370-384 (1997)
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Abstract

It is commonly acknowledged that, in order to test a theoretical hypothesis, one must, in Duhem' s phrase, rely on a "theoretical scaffolding" to connect the hypothesis with something measurable. Hypothesis-confirmation, on this view, becomes a three-place relation: evidence E will confirm hypothesis H only relative to some such scaffolding B. Thus the two leading logical approaches to qualitative confirmation--the hypothetico-deductive (H-D) account and Clark Glymour' s bootstrap account--analyze confirmation in relative terms. But this raises questions about the philosophical interpretation of the technical conditions these accounts describe. What does it mean to say that E confirms H "relative to B"? How should we interpret the relation we are trying to analyze?

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David Christensen
Brown University

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