Verisimilitude: a causal approach

Synthese 190 (9):1471-1488 (2013)
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Abstract

I present a new definition of verisimilitude, framed in terms of causes. Roughly speaking, according to it a scientific model is approximately true if it captures accurately the strengths of the causes present in any given situation. Against much of the literature, I argue that any satisfactory account of verisimilitude must inevitably restrict its judgments to context-specific models rather than general theories. We may still endorse—and only need—a relativized notion of scientific progress, understood now not as global advance but rather as the mastering of particular problems. This also sheds new light on longstanding difficulties surrounding language-dependence and models committed to false ontologies.

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Robert Northcott
Birkbeck, University of London

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