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The threefold evaluation of theories: a synopsis of from instrumentalism to constructive realism. On some relations between confirmation, empirical progress, and truth approximation

(2005) Kuipers, Theo A.F.

Surprisingly enough, modified versions of the confirmation theory of Carnap and Hempel and the truth approximation theory of Popper turn out to be smoothly synthesizable. The glue between confirmation and truth approximation appears to be the instrumentalist methodology, rather than the falsificationist one.
By evaluating theories separately and comparatively in terms of their successes and problems (hence even if they are already falsified), the instrumentalist methodology provides - both in theory and in practice - the straight route for short-term empirical progress in science in the spirit of Laudan. However, it is argued that such progress is also functional for all kinds of truth approximation: observational, referential, and theoretical. This sheds new
light on the long-term dynamic of science and hence on the relation between the main epistemological positions, viz., instrumentalism (Toulmin, Laudan), constructive empiricism (van Fraassen), referential realism (Hacking and Cartwright), and theory realism of a nonessentialist
nature (Popper), here called constructive realism.
In From Instrumentalism to Constructive Realism (2000) the above story is presented in great detail. The present synopsis highlights the main ways of theory evaluation presented in that book, viz. evaluation in terms of confirmation (or falsification), empirical progress and truth approximation.


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