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The Bayesian and the realist: Friends or foes?

Farmakis, Eleftherios (2008) The Bayesian and the realist: Friends or foes? PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The main purpose of my thesis is to bring together two seemingly unrelated topics in the philosophy of science and extract the philosophical consequences of this exercise. The first topic is Bayesianism - a well-developed, and popular, probabilistic theory of confirmation. The second topic is Scientific Realism - the thesis that we have good reason to believe that our best scientific theories are (approximately) true. It seems natural to assume that a sophisticated probabilistic theory of confirmation is the most appropriate framework for the treatment of the issue of scientific realism. Despite this intuition, however, the bulk of the literature is conspicuous for its failure to apply the Bayesian apparatus when discussing scientific realism. Furthermore, on the rare occasions that this has been attempted, its outcomes have been strikingly negative. In my thesis I systematise and critically examine the segmented literature in order to investigate whether, and how, Bayesianism and scientific realism can be reconciled. I argue for the following claims: 1) that those realists who claim that Bayesians lack a proper notion of 'theory acceptance' have misunderstood the nature of Bayesianism as a reductive account of 'theory acceptance'; 2) that it is possible to reconstruct most of the significant alternative positions involved in the realism debate using this new account of 'theory acceptance'; 3) that Bayesianism is best seen as a general framework within which the standard informal arguments for and against realism become transparent, thus greatly clarifying the force of the realist argument; 4) that a Bayesian reconstruction does not commit one to any particular position as ultimately the right one, and, 5) that this result does not amount to succumbing to relativism. I conclude that the attempt to apply Bayesianism to the realism issue enjoys a considerable amount of success, though not enough to resolve the dispute definitively.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Philosophy of Science
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
Departments > Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method

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