Title

Problems with formal models of epistemic entrenchment as applied to scientific theories

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1-1-2000

Abstract

Formal models of theory contraction entered the philosophical literature with the prototype model by Alchourrón, Gärdenfors, and Makinson (Alchourrón et al. 1985). One influential model involves theory contraction with respect to a relation called epistemic entrenchment which orders the propositions of a theory according to their relative degrees of theoretical importance. Various postulates have been suggested for characterizing epistemic entrenchment formally. I argue here that three suggested postulates produce inappropriately bizarre results when applied to scientific theories. I argue that the postulates called noncovering, continuing up, and continuing down, imply respectively that, (i) no scientific law is more epistemically entrenched than any of its instances, (ii) two distinct instances of the same scientific law must have different degrees of epistemic entrenchment, and (iii) any two scientific laws must have different degrees of epistemic entrenchment. I also argue that continuing up and continuing down each lead to incoherency. © 2000 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Publication Name

Synthese

Volume Number

122

First Page

313

Last Page

320

Issue Number

3

DOI

10.1023/A:1005290330684

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