Theory Assessment and Coherence

Peter Brössel

Abstract


One of the most important questions in epistemology and the
philosophy of science is: what is a good theory and when is a theory better
than another theory, given some observational data? The coherentist‟s answer
would be the following twofold conjecture: (i) A theory is a good theory
given some observational data iff that theory coheres with the observational
data and (ii) a theory is better than another theory given some
observational data iff the first theory coheres more with the observational
data than the second theory. In this paper we show that this answer is a
good answer. More precisely, we argue that the coherence measures of Olsson
(2002) and Shogenji (1999) are good measures for the purpose of comparing
and evaluating theories, i.e. assessing theories. We do so by clarifying the
sufficient and necessary conditions every assess-ment function must satisfy
for being a good measure of the goodness of theories. Afterwards we will
show that the coherence measures of Olsson and Shogenji are indeed good
assessment functions for assessing theories.

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