Theory status, inductive realism, and approximate truth: No miracles, no charades

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Abstract

The concept of approximate truth plays a prominent role in most versions of scientific realism. However, adequately conceptualizing 'approximate truth' has proved challenging. This article argues that the goal of articulating the concept of approximate truth can be advanced by first investigating the processes by which science accords theories the status of accepted or rejected. Accordingly, this article uses a path diagram model as a visual heuristic for the purpose of showing the processes in science that are involved in determining a theory's status. This 'inductive realist' model of theory status then serves as a starting point for explicating an inductive realist view of approximate truth that, it is argued, can explain instances of the success of science, but does not (1) require science's theories to be strictly true in any world or (2) require a metric for measuring how close an approximately true theory is to some strictly true theory. To show the advantages of the inductive realist approach to approximate truth, an example of a major success story of science, the successful eradication of smallpox, is reviewed and then explained.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-178
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Studies in the Philosophy of Science
Volume25
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2011

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