Reading Natural Philosophy: Essays in the History and Philosophy of Science and Mathematics

By David B. Malament | Go to book overview

12
Maximizing and Satisficing
Evidential Support

ISAAC LEVI

In the context of any given inquiry, a distinction is made between propositions taken for granted as being certainly true, their negations that count as certainly false, and propositions whose truth values are unsettled. Propositions taken for granted as being certainly true (false) are propositions whose truth values are settled beyond doubt—at least for the time being. The propositions whose truth-values are in doubt might be true and might be false—again, at least for the time being. When such serious possibilities are potential answers in the context of bona fide inquiries, they are conjectures or hypotheses.

The purpose of appraising hypotheses with respect to how well they arc confirmed is to help determine whether new information ought to be added to the current state of full belief. Should the initial state of full belief, relative to which assessments of evidential support are being made, be modified by rejecting potential answers that are disconfirmed to a sufficiently high degree and adding the negations of these rejected answers to the full beliefs? Should the best-confirmed potential answer be adopted? Whether confirmation is satisficed or maximized, once information is added to the full beliefs, the new assumptions become so settled that they may be used as resources in subsequent deliberation. One way or the other, confirmation or evidential support is relevant to changing states of full belief—that is to say, to altering the distinction between full beliefs and serious possibilities or between certainty and hypothesis.

Not all serious possibilities are conjectures or hypotheses relevant as potential answers to the question under study. Real and living doubts do indeed concern serious possibilities but they must also be about propositions that are potential solutions to the problems of interest to the inquirer or to the community in which the inquirer participates.

-315-

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