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The Probable and The Provable$
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L. Jonathan Cohen

Print publication date: 1977

Print ISBN-13: 9780198244127

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198244127.001.0001

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The Grading of Inductive Support

The Grading of Inductive Support

(p.129) 13 The Grading of Inductive Support
The Probable and The Provable

L. Jonathan Cohen

Oxford University Press

This chapter starts by exploring a justly famous paradigm of experimental reasoning about animals — Karl von Frisch's work on bees. An analysis of von Frisch's reasoning about bees' colour-discrimination illustrates that support builds up for a hypothesis when it fails to be falsified in more and more complexly structured tests — where complexity of structure depends on the number of relevant variables manipulated in the test. The results of any such test are essentially replicable, which has important consequences for detachment and the treatment of ‘anomalous’ test-results. The series of relevant variables for testing a generalization has to be defined in a way that will ensure that each variable is non-exhaustive, and independent of every other variable, and it is also necessary to ensure a suitable ordering for the series as a whole. There is also a certain tension between the ontological and epistemological points of view in the philosophy of inductive support. In addition, the subsumption of Mill's canons under the method of relevant variables is explained. It then addresses how the method of relevant variables applies to scientific theories. Furthermore, the chapter elaborates Whewell's consilience, and Lakatos' progressive problem-shift, as inductive criteria. Next, it presents the problem of anomalies.

Keywords:   inductive support, experimental reasoning, Karl von Frisch, bees, Mill, canons, Whewell, consilience, Lakatos, progressive problem-shift

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