What Is Empirical Testing?

Abstract: Science is epistemically special, or so I will assume: it is better able to produce knowledge about the workings of the world than other knowledge-directed pursuits. Further, its superior epistemic powers are due to its being in some sense especially empirical: in particular, science puts great weight on a form of inductive reasoning that I call empirical confirmation. My aim in this paper is to investigate the nature of science’s empiricism, and to provide a preliminary explanation of the connection between empirical confirmation and epistemic efficacy. I will try to convince you that the place to find an account of empirical confirmation is the dusty, long-neglected instantialist account of scientific inference offered by mid-century logical empiricists. Some revision of instantialism will be required. As for what is advantageous in empirical confirmation, I propose that it is an unusual degree of independence from background belief.

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