Journal Article

Approximate Truth and Dynamical Theories

Peter Smith

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 49, issue 2, pages 253-277
Published in print June 1998 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online June 1998 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/49.2.253
Approximate Truth and Dynamical Theories

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Arguably, there is no substantial, general answer to the question of what makes for the approximate truth of theories. But in one class of cases, the issue seems simply resolved. A wide class of applied dynamical theories can be treated as two-component theories—one component specifying a certain kind of abstract geometrical structure, the other giving empirical application to this structure by claiming that it replicates, subject to arbitrary scaling for units etc., the geometric structure to be found in some real-world dynamical phenomenon. In such a case, a theory is approximately true just if the one geometric structure approximately replicates the other (and if problems remain here, they are problems in geometry, of specifying suitable metric approximation relations, not conceptual problems). This article amplifies and defends this simple approach to approximate truth for dynamical theories.

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Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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