Category Archive: “Truth, Rationality, and the Situation”

Philosophy of the Social Sciences (Sep 1998), Vol. 28, No. 3, 400-21.

Slaying the hydra of verisimilitude

In my view, trying to measure verisimilitude by counting a theory’s true or false consequences always missed the point. Every false theory has the same number (if we can really talk this way) of true and false consequences as every other. This is a consequence of the truth-functional nature of our logical connectives and the truth-functional definition of validity. But some false statements are still closer to the truth than others. [411]

Working with false theories

Whether we should work with a theory that we know to be false or eliminate our error will depend almost entirely on our alternatives, and on the problem that they are supposed to solve. [406]

The primary task of science

The primary task of science is not to differentiate the true from the false—it is to solve scientific problems. [406]

The rationality principle

To say that someone did something because he is a madman is to confess that we cannot really explain it at all. This is the fundamental insight, and the methodological point, behind the rationality principle.

The rationality principle is not the empirical hypothesis that each person acts adequately to the situation. That hypothesis is clearly false. It is, on the contrary, a methodological principle that places restrictions on what will and will not count as a rational explanation. It says that if we want to explain a social event rationally, then we must assume that the people in it acted adequately to the situation, or, at the very least, that they acted adequately to the situation as they saw it. [405]

Science and truth

There is … an infinite number of true statements about the world that no empirical science would ever, or should ever, take notice [of]. [403]