Improve Popper and procure a perfect simulacrum of verification indistinguishable from the real thing

Journal for General Philosophy of Science (2021)
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According to Karl Popper, science cannot verify its theories empirically, but it can falsify them, and that suffices to account for scientific progress. For Popper, a law or theory remains a pure conjecture, probability equal to zero, however massively corroborated empirically it may be. But it does just seem to be the case that science does verify empirically laws and theories. We trust our lives to such verifications when we fly in aeroplanes, cross bridges and take modern medicines. We can do some justice to this apparent capacity of science to verify if we make a number of improvements to Popper’s philosophy of science. The key step is to recognize that physics, in accepting unified theories only, thereby makes a big metaphysical assumption about the nature of the universe. The outcome is a conception of scientific method which facilitates the criticism and improvement of metaphysical assumptions of physics. This view provides, not verification, but a perfect simulacrum of verification indistinguishable from the real thing.

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Nicholas Maxwell
University College London


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