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CEFISES Seminar: Michel Ghins, “What are the truth tropic virtues of a scientific theory?”
January 14@14:00-16:00 CET
Abstract: Epistemological scientific realists and antirealists alike invoke reasons to believe, or not, in the truth of some propositions belonging to an accepted scientific theory. These reasons are typically grounded on alleged epistemic virtues of theories, such as empirical adequacy, explanatory power, simplicity, scope etc. The debate between realists and antirealists hinges on whether these theoretical virtues are truth conducive or not, and if they are, to what extent. Thus, to assess the reach and limits of the credible truth content of a theory depends on how reliable these virtues are as indicators of truth.
This paper aims at examining the grounds of the reliability of theoretical virtues as far as their truth conduciveness is concerned. In other words, it attempts to provide criteria which would allow to judge the merits of the theoretical virtues invoked to justify – at least partial – belief in the truth of accepted scientific theories. In particular, I’ll try to show that so-called abductive arguments commonly adduced to justify belief in the existence of entities that are not directly observed, such as the planet Neptune, are in fact deductive arguments whose crucial premises are empirically verified generalisations which describe causal connections between indirectly observed properties and directly observed ones. Thus, a paramount truth tropic virtue of a scientific theory is to allow such deductive arguments.