- Students in philosophy of science used to be taught to respect the distinction between "the context of discovery" and "the context of justification." The philosophy of science (so the story went) is concerned with the latter context but not the former. It seeks to provide principles for evaluating scientific hypotheses and theories once they are formulated, but it must remain modestly silent about the process of discovery since hypotheses and theories are free creations of the human mind and since the creative process is the stuff of psychology, not philosophy.
- The discovery / justification distinction is now under pressure from several directions, one of which stems from work in artificial intelligence2 and formal learning theory. Granted that scientists do in fact arrive at theories by a process of guesswork, intuition, or whatever, it remains to ask what true theories can be reliably discovered by what procedures. More specifically, for a specified kind of theory and a specified class of possible worlds, does there exist a procedure (recursive or otherwise) such that for every possible evidence sequence from any of the possible worlds the procedure eventually finds every true theory of the given type and eventually avoids every false theory of the given type?
- In their contribution, Clark Glymour and Kevin Kelly show how to make such questions precise, and for some precise versions they provide precise answers. But as they note, a host of such questions remain begging for further investigation.
Part I - Inference and Method
Footnote 1: Taken from "Earman (John) - Inference, Explanation and Other Philosophical Frustrations: Introduction".
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