Towards a New Epistemology

Bas C. van Fraassen

in Laws and Symmetry

Published in print November 1989 | ISBN: 9780198248606
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597459 | DOI:

Series: Clarendon Paperbacks

 Towards a New Epistemology

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The underground river of probabilism, slowly growing in force over three centuries, burst forth above ground in the twentieth century and brought new hope for epistemology. Probabilism sees its historical origin in the work of Blaise Pascal in the seventeenth century, but has for the main part been developed in the last 100 years, notably by Leonard Savage, Rudolf Carnap, Bruno De Finetti, Isaac Levi, Richard Jeffrey, and many other writers on the interface of statistics, probability theory, and epistemology. This chapter provides a liberal version of probabilism, as basic framework for descriptive epistemology. Benefits include proofs of the incoherence of Inference to the Best Explanation and related ideas pertaining to Induction or, in general, to rule‐governed notions of rational opinion change. It is argued that this is not a form of scepticism and does provide a basis for an empiricist epistemology adequate for philosophy of science.

Keywords: Rudolf Carnap; Bruno De Finetti; epistemology; inference to the best explanation; Richard Jeffrey; Isaac Levi; Blaise Pascal; probabilism; probability theory; Leonard Savage; scepticism

Chapter.  11863 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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