Rijksuniversiteit Groningen / Faculteit Wijsbegeerte
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Theories looking for domains. Fact or fiction? Reversing structuralist truth approximation

(2006) Kuipers, Theo A.F.

The structuralist theory of truth approximation essen-tially deals with truth approximation by theory revision for a fixed domain. However, variable domains can also be taken into account, where the main changes concern domain extensions and restrictions. In this paper I will present a coherent set of definitions of “more truth-likeness”, “empirical progress” and “truth approximation” due to a revision of the domain of intended applications. This set of definitions seems to be the natural counterpart of the basic definitions of similar notions as far as theory revision is concerned. The formal aspects of theory revision strongly suggest an analogy between truth approximation and design research, for example, drug research. Whereas a new drug may be better for a certain disease than an old one, a certain drug may be better for another disease than for the original target disease, a phenomenon which was nicely captured by the title of a study by Rein Vos [1991]: Drugs Looking for Diseases. Similarly, truth approximation may not only take the shape of theory revision but also of domain revision, naturally suggesting the phenomenon of “Theories looking for domains”. However, whereas Vos documented his title with a number of examples, so far, apart from plausible cases of “truth accumulation by domain extension”, I did not find clear-cut empirical instantiations of the analogy, only, as such, very interesting, non-empirical examples.

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