A coherentist view of theory acceptance and change
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AbstractIf scientific theories could be known to be true, theory acceptance would be based on the truth of theories: we would accept only true theories. But no theory can be known to be true, as will be argued in chapter 4. I argue that the main determinant of acceptance is the ability of a theory to cohere with other accepted theories. Yet intertheoretic coherence is not the only determinant of acceptance. Accepted theories should be well-constructed and have an explanatory capability to be accepted. lntertheoretic coherence also constrains theory change, as will be argued in chapter 6. The widely accepted view that the principal aim of science is to provide adequate explanations is defended in this dissertation. However, adequate explanations do not have (and cannot be known) to be true, it will be argued. This, nonetheless, does not undermine the rationality of science. Science is rational as long as it gives us the best possible explanation with the help of the best available theories. The plan of the dissertation is as follows. In first two chapters, a review and critique of scientific realism is offered, because its basic theses are at variance with the coherentist view. It is shown that the realist view of theory acceptance and change is untenable. In chapter 3, Hacking's attempt to defend realism by founding its basic tenets on experimentation, will be criticized. Chapter 4 is concerned with the applicability of theories of truth to scientific theories. It is argued that no theory of truth can enable us to know whether a scientific theory is true. As an introduction to the view that the aim of science is to explain, I argue that predictions are special forms of explanation In chapter 5. In chapter 6, the main arguments for the coherentist view, which are supported by historical case studies, are presented. Also, it is argued that science is objective. Chapter 7 advocates the view that science aims primarily to produce explanations. The traditional view science can be rational only if its explanations are known to be true, not merely adequate, will be criticized.
Bibliography: p. 231-247.
CitationElsamahi, M. M. (1996). A coherentist view of theory acceptance and change (Unpublished doctoral thesis). University of Calgary, Calgary, AB. doi:10.11575/PRISM/22349
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