earman_salmon - Two - Part I: Qualitative Confirmation 2.1...

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--- Two John Earman and Wesley C. Salmon In Chapter 1 we considtred the nature and importance of scientific explanation. If we are to be able to provide an explanation of any fact, particular or general, we must be able to establish the statements that constitute its explanans. We have seen in the Introduction that many of the statements that function as explanans cannot be estab- lished in the sense of being conclusively verifies. Nevertheless, these statements can be supported or confirmed to some degree that falls short of absolute certainty. Thus, we want to learn what is involved in confirming the kinds of statements used in explanations, and in other scientific contexts as well. This chapter falls into four parts. Part I (Sections 2.1-2.4) introduces the problem of confirmation and discusses some attempts to explicate the qualitative concept of support. Part 11 (2.5-2.6) reviews Hume's problem of induction and some attempted resolutions. Part 111 (2.7-2.8) develops the mathematical theory of prob- ability and discusses various interpretations of the probability concept. Finally, Part N (2.9-2.10) shows how the probability apparatus can be used to illuminate various issues in confirmation theory. Parts I, 11, and UI can each stand alone as a basic introduction to the topic with which it deals. These three parts, taken together, provide a solid introduction to the basic issues in confirmation, induction, -and probability. Part IV covers more ad- vanced topics. Readers who prefer not to bring up Hume's problem of induction can omit Part U without loss of continuity. Part I: Qualitative Confirmation 2.1 EMPlRlCAL EVIDENCE - - -. .- The physical, biological, and behavioral sciences all empirical. This mem that - their assertions must ultimately face the test of observation- Some scientific state- ments face the observational evidence directly; for example, "All swans white," was supported by many observations of European swans, all of which were white, but it was refuted by the observation of black swans in Australia. Other scientific state- ments confront the observational evidence in indirect ways; for instance, "Every proton contains three quarks," can be checked observationally only by looking at the results of exceedingly complex experiments. Innumerable cases, of course, fall be- tween these two extremes. Human beings are medium-sized objects; we are much larger than atoms and much smaller than galaxies. Our environment is full of other medium-sized things- for example, insects, frisbees, automobiles, and skyscrapers. These can be observed with normal unaided human senses. Other things, such as microbes, ate too small to be seen directly; in these cases we can use instruments of observation- microscopes--lo extend our powers of observation. Similarly, telescopes are exten- sions of our senses that enable us to see things that too far away to be observed directly. Our senses of hearing and touch can also be enhanced by various kinds of instruments. Ordinary eyeglasses-in contrast to microscopes and telescopes--are not extensions of normal human senses; they
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This note was uploaded on 08/01/2008 for the course PHIL 290 taught by Professor Fitelson during the Fall '06 term at University of California, Berkeley.

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earman_salmon - Two - Part I: Qualitative Confirmation 2.1...

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