Coherence of Our Best Scientific Theories

Foundations of Science 16 (1):21-30 (2011)
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Abstract
Putnam (1975) infers from the success of a scientific theory to its approximate truth and the reference of its key term. Laudan (1981) objects that some past theories were successful, and yet their key terms did not refer, so they were not even approximately true. Kitcher (1993) replies that the past theories are approximately true because their working posits are true, although their idle posits are false. In contrast, I argue that successful theories which cohere with each other are approximately true, and that their key terms refer. My position is immune to Laudan’s counterexamples to Putnam’s inference and yields a solution to a problem with Kitcher’s position.
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