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Extreme request for mechanical verification in the lead.[edit]

Due to what I consider extreme request for mechanical verification in the lead, this sentence

On the other hand, Duhem and others said that definitive experimental falsifications are impossible.

was replaced by this sentence

On the other hand, the fact that Duhem and others said that it is impossible to test a scientific hypothesis in isolation means that definitive falsifications of falsifiable theories (because they are always taken in isolation, i.e., separated from any auxiliary hypotheses or background assumptions) are impossible.

Let me explain why the first sentence is what must be said to best inform the readers in the most simple manner. It's very clear all over the literature that falsifiability is very often criticized because in practice we can never rigorously falsify a theory. There is always an apparatus used to make an observation. Even in the case of swans, this issue arises. For example, we can think that it's a black swan, but it was actually a black raven. Or, someone painted the white swan in black. This illustrates the need for background assumptions and auxiliary hypotheses. I should not have to explain that and no one should doubt that this issue was raised very very often in the literature. But, I will give one example among many. In her book Error and the Growth of Experimental Knowledge, Deborah Mayo wrote:

In a nutshell, hypothesis H is deductively falsified if H entails experimental outcome O, while in fact the outcome is ~O [i.e., not O]. What is learned is that H is false. Several familiar problems stand in the way of such learning. Outcome O, itself open to error, is “theory laden” and derived only with the help of auxiliary hypotheses. The anomaly cannot be taken as teaching us that H is false because it might actually be due to some error in the observations or one of the auxiliary hypotheses needed to derive O.

Mayo does not say "Often, the anomaly cannot be taken...". She does not say that it's only the case "when H is taken in isolation". No, she says "The anomaly cannot be taken ...", which means that it's always the case. This verifies the original sentence. Popper also explains this. He wrote:

It might be said that even if the asymmetry is admitted, it is still impossible, for various reasons, that any theoretical system should ever be conclusively falsified. For it is always possible to find some way of evading falsification...

It's all over the place in the literature and anyone with a minimal understanding of the subject would not have questioned the verifiability of the original sentence. It is also verified in the body of the article: "Popper was aware that one can always find another auxiliary hypothesis,..." So, the original sentence is verified in the literature and in the body of the article. However, there was a problem of mechanical verification of the statement of the Duhem's problem. More precisely, in a source, it is written that the Duhem's problem is that "it is impossible to test a scientific hypothesis in isolation". So, Loew Galitz insisted that we add the "in isolation" for verifiability. This creates a confusion, because the non informed reader will think "Ah! It's only in these special cases in which the system is taken in isolation". The reader would be justified to think that, because we were careful to mention that it's only for systems taken "in isolation". So, to prevent this confusion, the sentence must further explain that it's always the case when we consider falsifiability that the system is taken in isolation. I tried to explain to Loew Galitz that an article must present a vast amount of information available in the literature in a short article and that some encyclopedic work is needed to achieve that, which means that we cannot verify this process in a mechanical manner by looking at one source. Instead, one must understand the subject. I also tried to explain to Loew Galitz that it's not useful to go into the concept of "in isolation" in the lead, but he would not understand, because in his view a text should be mechanically verifiable. Dominic Mayers (talk) 14:43, 10 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

his view a text should be mechanically verifiable, this is not "my view", this is our policy: WP:Verifiability. Loew Galitz (talk) 18:30, 10 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I also tried to explain to Loew Galitz ..., but he would not understand -- And I tried to explain to the O.P. that I do not need their explanations, I need references so that I can compare wikipedia with sources without any interpreters. Loew Galitz (talk) 18:35, 10 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It is also verified in the body - No it is not. Please provide the reference to the statement you insist on: "Duhem and others said that definitive experimental falsifications are impossible.".Loew Galitz (talk) 18:30, 10 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
For example, we can think that it's a black swan, but it was actually a black raven - that's bullshitting. Science has its scientific method to make sure that ravens are not taken for swans. Loew Galitz (talk) 18:30, 10 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
definitive experimental falsifications are impossible -- This statement is equivalent to the statement "definite experimental proofs are impossible", because proof of "A" is equivalent to falsification of "not A". Meaning in effect that one cannot trust in science, opening the whole can of anti-scientific worms. Loew Galitz (talk) 18:30, 10 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
At the top of the section, you inserted "Warning. The text below includes a false quotation of mine. ..." This is a false accusation. This text did not quote you, certainly not misquoted you nor intended to do anything of the sort. Also, you should place your comment at the bottom, not at the top of the section.
You are a very polemic person. You interpret every thing in a way that makes me a bad person. It's bad to misquote someone. I will never do that. If you interpreted things with a positive view of me, you would understand that I meant exactly what I meant, nothing more, and did not even want to suggest what you say. I explained in the text exactly what you wanted, i.e., adding "in isolation", and the confusion that this creates. Then, I explained how the second sentence had to be more complicated in order to both include "in isolation" and also make sure that there is no confusion. Since the beginning you speak of my work here as if I was a bad person and you see yourself as the saver of Wikipedia that restores order. This is not the reality. I don't know what your intentions are or what's going on in your mind, but the vision that you are the saver of Wikipedia and me the enemy that breaks the rules does not work. I apply the rules the best way possible that I see. Dominic Mayers (talk) 22:27, 10 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Perhaps I reacted in a polemical manner to your polemical attitude. Let's try to stop that. I will assume that we are in opposition about what verifiability requires, but we both are great people with great intentions. I say that verifiability requires an understanding of the sources. You interpret it as if I say that you must use me as an interpret to understand the sources and you find this unacceptable. Please understand that I do not say that you must interpret the sources and certainly not that you must depend on me for that. The correct word in English for what I say is "understand", not "interpret" and though a discussion with others can be useful, it's you that must understand the sources: it's your direct understanding that is needed. Others can perhaps help, but you do not need to depend on them. Dominic Mayers (talk) 22:51, 10 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Which word or word combination in the sentence "Please provide the reference to the statement you insist on" you do not understand? Loew Galitz (talk) 22:59, 10 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I am trying to discuss with you our different understandings of verifiability. This discussion would help you understand the problem with your request. I did provide all the sources needed to verify this sentence and my point is that you would see this easily if you had a better understanding of the sources. You keep being non satisfied because in your understanding of verifiability the sources do not verify the sentence. In your view of the policies, it has to be almost words matching—I am not sure exactly what is your mechanical verifiability criterion, but you confirmed that, in your view, the policy says it has to be mechanical. Then, because it is not mechanical, you accuse me of wanting that you depend on me as the interpret. That's the real issue. Dominic Mayers (talk) 23:13, 10 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Actually, there is a way more important issue here. This second issue worries me a lot more. You keep misinterpreting me and accusing me on the basis of these misinterpretations. This is not acceptable. In this edit I moved a text that you inadequately placed at the top of the section. You must make your comments at the bottom of the section. This comment was also inappropriate because you accused me of misquoting you, which is false. Not only that, despite my explanation, you wrote again your false accusation at the top of the section. Please remove your false accusation and in the future place your comments at the bottom and stop misinterpreting me to justify false accusations. Dominic Mayers (talk) 23:27, 10 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Yes you are misquoting me and I provided the proof: the diff of my last edit which you reverted. Maybe my memory is bad and I did write something else some time ago, but do you genuinely think we have to dispute a text long gone? Loew Galitz (talk) 23:58, 10 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Which word or word combination in the sentence "Please provide the reference to the statement you insist on" Loew Galitz (talk) 23:58, 10 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
P.S. Probably there is a miscommunication. Yes, I saw your quotation of Deborah Mayo and Popper a bit below, but I am requesting sources (with page numbers), because I need the overall context. In particular, the disputed sentence is interpreting the Duhem–Quine thesis and I am not sure that Mayo's text is a relevant reference to prove that your interpretation of the D-Q thesis is correct. Loew Galitz (talk) 00:16, 11 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The sentence is not specifically about Duhem's way of stating the problem. This is why the sentence says "and others". This is why the "in isolation" is not important. Mayo refers to the problem and she is part of the others. Mayo does not mention "in isolation". Popper also does not mention "in isolation". He is also a part of the others. The problem in question is very well known. It is usually attributed to Duhem, but it's just the very common knowledge that when we try to falsify a theory, we cannot tell if it is the theory that is falsified or one of the many required auxiliary hypotheses or the background theory behind the falsifying observation. A common example that is mentioned by Lakatos in his book The methodology of scientific research programmes is the falsification of the crystal ball theory of celestial bodies by Galileo. People actually objected that it was the theory of the telescope that was falsified by the observations, not the crystal ball theory. I am just trying to help you realize that the sentence is a very basic knowledge that anyone with a very basic understanding of the philosophy of science knows about. Now, you ask me a page number for Mayo, but it such a basic knowledge that if you get the book, you will find it easily. It's not hidden. You do not need to read the entire book. It's actually the very first thing that Mayo discusses in the book. It's chapter 1, sec. 1.1. Dominic Mayers (talk) 01:18, 11 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

You wrote Yes you are misquoting me and I provided the proof: the diff of my last edit which you reverted. You have a serious problem of seeing yourself at the centre of every thing written. There is nothing in what I wrote that says that the second sentence is what you wrote and that I reverted. In fact, I say clearly that this sentence came after you proposed "in isolation", so it cannot be your sentence which first proposed to add "in isolation". The idea that it's a misquote of your sentence exists only in your mind, not in the facts. In any case, you should not insert any comment at the top of a section. You must respect the convention of the talk page and the convention is to put comments at the bottom, definitively not at the top, of the section. Dominic Mayers (talk) 01:33, 11 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Oh, you are talking to yourself! I am sorry for your mental health problems Loew Galitz (talk) 02:25, 11 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
(edit conflict) Yes, I was referring to two sentences that I wrote. You are lucky that you made me laugh with your "mental health" comment, because attacking people like that is not acceptable on Wikipedia. For me, who wrote the sentences is irrelevant. You put your attention on issues that are irrelevant to me. It's the reason why they were written that matters. I could have referred to your sentence as an intermediary step. The idea is that you insisted for "in isolation", but this by itself creates a confusion. That would correspond to your sentence—the intermediary step that I did not present, because such confusion was simply not an option. To keep the "in isolation" while avoiding the confusion, we need a more complicated sentence. That corresponds to the second sentence. Dominic Mayers (talk) 02:43, 11 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
If it is not Duhem's way, tghen don' wiklink him. With this wikilink you created a false implied proposituon and wasted a huge amount of time, because we were talking about different things. I removed the wikilink and added a reference. Loew Galitz (talk) 02:25, 11 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It's not Duhem's way, but it's still the Duhem's problem. All three, Lakatos, Popper and Mayo, refer to it as the Duhem's problem. For example, Mayo does it while quoting Lakatos:

Accepting what is often referred to as the Duhem-Quine thesis, that “no experimental result can ever kill a theory: any theory can be saved from counter-instances either by some auxiliary hypothesis or by a suitable reinterpretation of its terms" (Lakatos 1978, 32).

— Mayo, Error and the Growth of Experimental Knowledge
Note that they refer to it as the Duhem's problem, but they do not mention the "in isolation". This is why I am telling you that your view that verification is mechanical with a focus on a single source is not the usual approach in Wikipedia, not for science, mathematics and philosophy. Dominic Mayers (talk) 03:03, 11 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

To anyone looking at this discussion, it is a good illustration of the impossibility to verify usefully a content without an understanding of the subject. Loew Galitz saw "isolated hypothesis" in a source that describes Duhem's problem and insisted very strongly that it should be included: the entire discussion is about that. I tried the best I could to explain to him that the theory is isolated, because it does not include the required auxiliary hypotheses, etc. and thus it is confusing to add this requirement. He refused to even try to understand what I explained. Here is one version of the sentence used by Loew Galitz:

On the other hand, Duhem and others said that definitive experimental falsifications of an isolated hypothesis are often impossible.

Immediately, with an understanding of the subject, you can see that this sentence is confusing and shows a complete lack of understanding of the subject. The sentence in the source used by Loew Galitz says, while citing Duhem

“The physicist can never subject an isolated hypothesis to experimental test, but only a whole group of hypotheses”. Thus there is no reason to single out any particular hypothesis as the guilty one for isolated hypotheses are immune from refutation: Duhem denies that unambiguous falsification procedures do exist in science.

Yes, the source uses "isolated hypothesis", but the context is that the source explains Duhem's thesis. It explains that there is always other hypotheses. So, it's true that we never falsify an isolated hypothesis, but again the idea is that every time that we try to falsify an hypothesis, we face the reality that the hypothesis is not isolated. In fact, the source concludes "Duhem denies that unambiguous falsification procedures do exist in science". This cannot be clearer. This conclusion is what we need in the Falsifiability article. In our context, mentioning "isolated hypothesis" as if it does not apply to all experimental falsifications, but only to the falsifications of isolated hypotheses is confusing. Also the sources does not say "often". Adding "often" shows a complete lack of understanding: Duhem denies that it is possible, which means that Duhem says it is simply impossible—adding "often" changes completely the meaning. Dominic Mayers (talk) 18:37, 11 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"isolated hypothesis" as if it does not apply to all experimental falsifications - just find me a ref that says that "it" applies to all experimental falsifications, and we all are happy. Loew Galitz (talk) 19:45, 11 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It's even in the source that you used. It says "Duhem denies that unambiguous falsification procedures do exist in science". But, it's not just in that source. It's also in Mayo, Lakatos, Popper and I am sure I can find many more. Let me check Chalmers... Yep, it's also there:

A theory cannot be conclusively falsified, because the possibility cannot be ruled out that some part of the complex test situation, other than the theory under test, is responsible for an erroneous prediction. This diffiulty often goes under the name of the Duhem/Quine thesis.

— Chalmers, What is this thing called science?
I suspect that all modern philosophers of science explain this in at the least one publication. Dominic Mayers (talk) 19:55, 11 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
No it is not. Duhem's quote says "in science", not "all". I don't know the context of Chalmers, but since he quotes Duhem, probably science was in mind as well. If we say "all", then there is no way we can refute pseudoscience. The reason it works in science is the scientific method. Loew Galitz (talk) 20:02, 11 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
To anyone looking at this discussion, it is a good illustration how an editor tries to impose their own view with dissregard of the sources. In wikipedia the exegesis or tafsir of a wikipedian is not a valid source for wikipedia articles. If the source (in fact, the very author of the subject) uses the term "isolated" then "isolated" it is. If the term needs further clarification, this clarification must be based on sources, period. The O.P. staunchly refused to cite any sources (simply mentioning that Dr. Random Doctor said this or that is not enough), covering this talk page with impenetrable walls of text instead, which I have no desire neither to read tor verify its logic. Per wikipedia rules I should verify only the correspondence of article text with the sources cited. 19:42, 11 January 2022 (UTC)

You wrote: If we say "all", then there is no way we can refute pseudoscience. Yes, it indeed implies that we cannot refute pseudoscience experimentally, i.e., through an experimental falsification. Let me point out that you are starting to argue beyond the sources here. It's your own personal argument that you present here. It's ok, because we need to discuss our understanding of the sources. To help you understand, let us consider the Omphalos_hypothesis. It cannot be refuted by an experiment. You can refute it by saying that it is not falsifiable. Dominic Mayers (talk) 20:14, 11 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Yes, but falsifiable pseudoscience exists. Loew Galitz (talk) 20:22, 11 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

(edit conflict) @Loew Galitz: You wrote: I cannot believe a smart person as Lakatos surely is, can utter such a nonsense. It's Mayo that quotes Lakatos here. If we want the point of view of Lakatos, we don't need Mayo. Here is a better quote of Lakatos:

According to the 'Duhem-Quine thesis', given sufficient imagination, any theory (whether consisting of one proposition or of a finite conjunction of many) can be permanently saved from 'refutation' by some suitable adjustment in the background knowledge in which it is embedded.

— Lakatos, The methodology of scientific research programmes

You wrote: Yes, but falsifiable pseudoscience exists. The term "falsifiable" here can lead to confusion, because, as defined by Popper, it means logically (not experimentally) contradicted by an observation statement. I suppose that you simply meant to say that some pseudoscientific theories can be falsified, which is completely different. This indeed appears to contradict the Quine-Duhem thesis. Let's consider astrology. In the common language, we say that astrology has often been falsified. This seems to be a counter example of the Quine-Duhem thesis described by Lakatos (and many others). Actually, it is not a counter example. The explanation is that in the common language, when we speak of falsifications, we accept many required auxiliary hypotheses and background knowledge. The Quine-Duhem thesis still apply, as it does for Newton's theory. In the common language, we say that Newton's theory was shown to be false, for example, by the measurement of the precession of Mercury. But, again, a lot of assumptions and background knowledge is accepted in the measurement of the precession. The Quine-Duhem thesis still applies: it says that maybe these assumptions were incorrect and, thus Newton's theory might be correct. For example, may be some special kind of invisible matter around Mercury interact in a special manner with it. Newton's theory would then be correct, only the description of the state of the system was incorrect. This is the kind of auxiliary hypotheses that Lakatos used to argue that Newton's theory cannot be falsified. In a similar manner, in the common language, we say that astrology has been falsified, just as we say that Newton's theory has been, but there are also assumptions when we falsify astrology. In both cases, these are not counter examples of the Quine-Duhem thesis (which says that the falsification of a theory is impossible, because perhaps other hypotheses were incorrect, not the theory). Dominic Mayers (talk) 21:57, 11 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Thenk you for an interesting discussion; it was useful for me. However I looked around and was appalled by a horrible state of the articles in the philosophy of science, in particular Ceteris paribus, Defeasible reasoning, Testability. I slipped a joke about mental health. I do have a certain degree of obsessive-compulsiveness, and since I have no full expertise nor time to right all "wrongs", I am reclusing myself again from all philosophical subjects, because it seems they all are effectively abandoned and the burden on my brain will be unbearable. I am removing this page from my watchlist as well, good-bye. Loew Galitz (talk) 20:57, 11 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

You do not need to recluse yourself from these difficult subjects. I do believe that your motto "Wikipedia editors and administrators do not need a degree in cosmic and particle science or quantum mechanics to apply Wikipedia policies" is correct. But, I understand this in the same way as I understand "one does need to be a musician to recognize good music". It means that when you discuss in the talk page with editors, you can recognize when one of them does not apply the policy, just by the way the editor discusses and refers (or not) to sources. It's easier when there are many editors, because then the quality of discussions shows even more. However, expecting that verification is mechanical is asking too much. You can still without this too strict criterion recognize the extreme cases where there is no chance of verifiability in the sources or a clear refusal to argue reasonably in terms of the sources. However, to go in the details of an argument to change a sentence, you need to understand the subject. Otherwise, it would be like trying to play music without knowing how to play. Dominic Mayers (talk) 22:23, 11 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Some concepts to put falsifiability in context[edit]

Pragmatism and strong belief[edit]

According to Godfrey-Smith, in the view of pragmatists, the main goal of language and thoughts is practical problem solving.[1] The theory must answer a question about the world of observations. If the theory answers the question well, then one is justified in believing in it. The question Hume was asking is how observation can be used to justify this belief. Peirce outlines three stages in the process: abduction, deduction, and induction. In the abduction phase, theories are presented for consideration. In the deductive phase, they are prepared for tests. In the inductive phase, test results are evaluated.[2]. To give a context to refutability, the most important thing is the existence of a deductive phase that exists purely at the theoretical level and serves to prepare tests. Refutability is simply the requirement that these tests be possible at this theoretical level. In this sense, the refutability criterion was implicit in Peirce. The most important difference between Peirce and Popper seems to be Popper's rejection that testing is an inductive process that leads to strong belief. For Popper, whether at the psychological level or at the objective level, there is no inductive, i.e., non-deductive, rigorous process that leads from observations to belief. According to him, the belief relates, on the contrary, to the conjectures that exist before the observations and any change in the belief due to corroborations can be justified deductively. He does not deny that we have the strong belief that if the tests are successful then the theory can be trusted, but he denies that this belief is a mental habit created by repetition. For him, it is innate, the result of an evolutionary process. On this respect, he somewhat joins Chomsky and other philosophers who believe that we have innate mechanisms at the level of language. He accepts that there is a form of induction in this evolutionary process and he calls it quasi-induction. Dominic Mayers (talk) 16:06, 26 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I don't think Peirce used the term "strong belief"; I searched several collections of his writings and the term does not appear in them. Peirce in fact distnguished between the "method of tenacity" and the "method of science", implying that in science belief is not tenacious belief, i.e., not strong belief. In questions of probability, Peirce also opposed (what we would call) subjectivists who equated probability with strength of belief. For an overview, see the section on probability, versimilitude, and plausibility in the SEP article on Peirce, e.g.: "Peirce is often considered to be the originator of the sort of 'propensity view' of probability that is associated with Karl Popper. [...] In rejecting Bayesianism and the method of inverse probabilities, Peirce argued that in fact no probability at all can be assigned to inductive arguments. Instead of probability, a different measure of imperfection of certitude must be assigned to inductive arguments: verisimilitude or likelihood." Peirce and Popper are, of course, very different philosophers in many ways, but I doubt that "strong belief" is an issue that separates them, given that Peirce never uses the term. Biogeographist (talk) 15:55, 31 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
For example: "The difference comes to this, that the practical man stakes everything he cares for upon the hazard of a die, and must believe with all the force of his manhood that the object for which he strives is good and that the theory of his plan is correct; while the scientific man is above all things desirous of learning the truth and, in order to do so, ardently desires to have his present provisional beliefs (and all his beliefs are merely provisional) swept away, and will work hard to accomplish that object. This is the reason that a good practical man cannot do the best scientific work. The temperaments requisite for the two kinds of business are altogether contrary to one another. This is above all true of the practical teacher [who] has no calling for his work unless he thoroughly believes that he is already in possession of all-important truth, with which he seeks by every physiological means to imbue other minds, so that they shall be unable to give it up. But a scientific man, who has any such immovable beliefs to which he regards himself as religiously bound to be loyal, cannot at the same time desire to have his beliefs altered. In other words he cannot wish to learn the truth." Peirce, Charles Sanders (1935) [1898]. "The backward state of metaphysics". In Hartshorne, Charles; Weiss, Paul (eds.). Collected papers of Charles Sanders Peirce. Vol. 6. Scientific metaphysics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. p. 3. ISBN 0674138023. OCLC 783138. Biogeographist (talk) 17:19, 2 April 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Biogeographist:, I know this is old, but I realize now that I did not answer. I do not disagree with what you wrote, except that you misinterpreted my use of the qualifier "strong". I used the term strong to acknowledge that even excellent scientists strongly believe in the correctness in practice of their laws, not to mean that they believe in the fundamental truth of any scientific law. I already at the time understood very well that Peirce considered that laws were not fundamental truths and that we will find better and better laws. I agree that on this respects there is no difference between Peirce and Popper. Still, Peirce referred to an induction step that was needed to create a belief, call it a weak belief if you want, whereas Popper rejected that observations would even contribute to a belief. For Popper, the belief must be there even before the observation, but this belief includes, of course, the provision that tests must succeed. Therefore, the only way an observation contributes to the belief is that it is not rejected if it does not contradict the law. As Miller says, from a logical standpoint, there is a "free entrance" in the domain of believed laws and the methodology only removes the laws that fail. (But even this removal process is fallible.) I never seen this clearly discussed by Peirce and the idea of an induction phase to create beliefs, weak or strong, seems to go in the wrong direction. Popper acknowledged, of course, that there is a reinforcement of a belief when it is not rejected by a severe test. It's possible that it is exactly what Peirce meant by an induction process, but, if. that is the case, I don't blame Popper to have been confused by this choice of terminology. I would not call this induction. Dominic Mayers (talk) 15:31, 26 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yes, the meaning of "inIduction" (and probably of "belief") was different for Peirce and Popper. I discovered that Peirce did use a term similar to "strong belief", namely "firm belief", in his early article "The fixation of belief" (1877), where it is equivalent to "settled opinion" and is the opposite of doubt. I agree that from Miller's point of view Peirce seems to go in the wrong direction, but Miller is talking about a change of laws in a logical/formalistic sense whereas Peirce is talking about a change of mental states in a psychological/naturalistic sense. There is no formal logical level to Peirce's concept of belief; it's purely psychological. Falsifiability as a logical criterion is completely irrelevant to Peircean belief: "as soon as a firm belief is reached we are entirely satisfied, whether the belief be true or false". The 1877 article contains this little bit of incipient evolutionary epistemology (of biological mechanisms not of formal theories): "Logicality in regard to practical matters (if this be understood, not in the old sense, but as consisting in a wise union of security with fruitfulness of reasoning) is the most useful quality an animal can possess, and might, therefore, result from the action of natural selection; but outside of these it is probably of more advantage to the animal to have his mind filled with pleasing and encouraging visions, independently of their truth; and thus, upon unpractical subjects, natural selection might occasion a fallacious tendency of thought." Biogeographist (talk) 03:15, 28 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I am not sure how the concept of belief in laws in Popper is different, if different at all, from its counterpart in Peirce. I haven't read a lot Peirce and I would be happy to figure out that part more clearly. I know that in Popper the concept of belief, in many occasions, is this informal non rigorous, psychological, etc. state of mind in which we accept to use a law with conviction. Miller does not say, to my knowledge, that the free entrance in the domain of science must come with a belief. It's me that added that to the notion of "free entrance" used by Miller. I felt it was fine to do that. because, irrespective of what Miller says, the laws that have entered the domain of science, are accompanied with that kind of beliefs, which exist before any observation, but are reinforced by observations, because the belief includes the provision that the law must pass severe tests and when it does pass these tests, something is gained. Popper discussed this psychological aspect much more than Miller did. He tried to formalize it a bit using verisimilitude, but he did not succeed. But even that formalization would not have allowed to measure the belief in the law. It would only have been a theoretical model. Given that he did not succeed, the notion remained purely informal. The difference that I see between Popper and Peirce, but again I would be happy to figure out that part more clearly, is that, apparently, Peirce says that there is a method called induction to create beliefs in laws. There is no such method in Popper. There are only the use of severe tests and when a law is not rejected by these severe tests, of course, the belief is reinforced. What I don't know is what Peirce meant by this process of induction to create beliefs. I would be very happy to learn that it is the same as in Popper. Then the difference between them would only be the choice of words used, which is superficial, not in their view of science. Dominic Mayers (talk) 04:13, 28 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The myth of methodological falsifiability[edit]

It is often suggested that Popper defines refutability at the logical, i.e., theoretical level, but then changes the definition and that refutability, in practice, requires that the theory can be methodologically refuted. The argument given is that Popper says that, without methodological rules, refutability does not guarantee that the system is scientific. This argument ignores the importance of distinguishing between the logical and methodological levels in order to avoid false problems at the methodological level. The goal is not rigorous refutation, which is impossible, but only to allow critical discussion. Really, the whole idea is to separate the logical criterion which is easily and rigorously verifiable from the methodological rules which are also, it is true, important, but necessarily informal although sufficient for the intended objective. The logical criterion is very useful and works well in the context of these rules and the intended purpose. If we do not understand this, we have missed a central point. Dominic Mayers (talk) 16:06, 26 March 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]



  • Godfrey-Smith, Peter (2003). Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. University of Chicago Press.
  • Magee, Brian; Morgenbesser, Sidney (1987). "The American Pragmatists: Dialogue with Sidney Morgenbesser". In Brian Magee (ed.). The Great Philosophers: An Introduction to Western Philosophy: Based on the BBC Television Series. Oxford University Press.

Subtle but important point regarding the material condition.[edit]

This edit and this one, both, have a useful purpose. The first one brings out that, being a logical criterion, we should not care that the actual devices exist. It should be sufficient that it can be built. The second one brings out that the way to build the devices must exist, which means that some technologies must exist and, therefore, it is not accurate to say the technologies need not exist. The material condition is at the junction point between existing technologies (the material aspect) and the logical world of statements. This is what the extract from Nola & Sankey quoted by Biogeographist says. Perhaps the text could still be improved to make clear that an « empirical test » is not something abstract, but something that can be physically executed given the intersubjective knowledge, even if the context is a « logical criterion ». Dominic Mayers (talk) 22:41, 11 February 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Yes, that's why I removed mention of "existing technologies" instead of doing a clean revert. I couldn't think of an easy way to explain all that. Biogeographist (talk) 22:47, 11 February 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I understand. When I see that editors, including User talk:Profnnmm, are making subtle modifications that all show a reference to sources, I do not worry. I mean, in particular, the understanding that the material condition has nothing to do with actual tests and therefore, no actual specific devices need to be referred to, is certainly verifiable in sources. Dominic Mayers (talk) 22:52, 11 February 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]