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Comparative success and empirical progress without approximate truth

Hricko, Jonathon (2023) Comparative success and empirical progress without approximate truth. [Preprint]

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Abstract

This paper argues against a particular version of the inference from the success of a scientific theory to the claim that the theory must be approximately true to some extent. The kind of success at issue is comparative, where one theory is more empirically successful than its rival if that theory predicts phenomena that are inexplicable or anomalous according to its rival. A theory that exhibits this kind of comparative success can be seen as thereby achieving empirical progress over its rival. David Harker has developed a form of selective scientific realism based on the idea that this kind of success is evidence for the approximate truth of the parts of theories responsible for such success. Counterexamples to Harker’s position are cases in which a theory is more successful than its rival in virtue of containing parts that are not even approximately true. In order to identify some counterexamples to Harker’s position, this paper considers four historical cases that Greg Frost-Arnold has recently used to motivate a novel historical challenge to realism called the Problem of Misleading Evidence. This paper argues that these four cases are counterexamples to Harker’s position, and that they provide a strong reason to doubt his position and the kind of success-to-truth inference that he defends.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Hricko, Jonathon
Keywords: selective scientific realism, comparative success, empirical progress, success-to-truth inference, historical challenge to scientific realism
Subjects: General Issues > Evidence
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Theory Change
Depositing User: Jonathon Hricko
Date Deposited: 23 May 2023 12:28
Last Modified: 23 May 2023 12:28
Item ID: 22132
Subjects: General Issues > Evidence
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Theory Change
Date: 2023
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/22132

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