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Lecture by Prof. Kit Fine (New York University) IFP 227

Title:Some Remarks on Popper's Qualitative Account of Verisimilitude

Speaker: Prof. Kit Fine (New York University)
Time:Aug 14, 2018 20:30-22:00


    Most philosophers of science would now judge Popper’s qualitative account of verisimilitude, important as it may have been for the development of the topic, to have been an abject failure. This would have been my own opinion - until recently. But in thinking about the topic from a more general perspective, I came to realize that there was more to be said in favor of his account, and of other accounts of the same sort, than is commonly recognized.
    I begin with some remarks about my general approach, with particular emphasis on the explanation of verisimilitude in terms of truth- and falsity-content (§1). I then provide a formulation of Popper’s qualitative account of verisimilitude within this general approach (§2). I next consider some familiar objections to his account and argue that some of them might be met given a suitable understanding of what the account is taken to be an account of (§3). I take this line of defense to its limit by arguing that Popper’s account can be regarded as a Pareto criterion of verisimilitude, which is meant to hold regardless of the closeness ranking on worlds (§§4-5). I go on to consider how, within the same general framework, other accounts of truth- and falsitycontent will lead to alternative criteria of verisimilitude (§6); and I conclude by pointing out, that despite the possibility of providing some kind of justification for these various criteria, they cannot themselves be seen to provide a useful guide to scientific progress (§7). An appendix deals with certain technical matters left open in the main body of the text.
    I should perhaps make clear that I myself do not favor an intensional approach to verisimilitude of the sort that Popper provides; and, indeed, it was my interest in developing an alternative hyper-intensional approach that led me to consider in more careful detail what might be said in favor of the intensional approach. I hope, in other work, to develop the hyperintensional approach and to show how it is able to avoid some of the pitfalls and problems in the intensional approach.

Prof. Kit Fine is a University Professor of New York University, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the British Academy。Prof. Kit Fine is a world-leading philosopher and logician who has shaped many fields such as modal logic, philosophy of language, and formal semantics