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An Abstract of "Hypothetico-Deductivism, Content, and The Natural Axiomatization of Theories"

In Gemes (1990) I showed that certain formal versions of hypothetico-deductivism suggested by Paul Horwich and Carl Hempel have the unacceptable consequence that 'Abe is a white raven' confirms 'All ravens are black'! I claimed that such versions of hypothetico-deductivism could be saved from having this bizarre consequence if they had recourse to a new notion of content developed in Gemes (1992). In the current work I expand on the claim made at the end of Gemes (1990) that more classical formulations of hypothetico-deductivism also need recourse to this new notion of content.

The main problem with classical accounts of hypothetico-deductivism is that they do not allow for selective confirmation, that is they have the result that evidence e confirms theory T in cases were intuitively we want to say that e confirms only particular parts of T. For instance, according to classical accounts the claim that 'The earth travels in an elliptical orbit around the sun' confirms 'All the planets travel in elliptical orbits around the sun and they are all made of green cheese'. To allow for the selective confirmation, without which, in Glymour's words, H-D is hopeless, one needs to explain the notion of a natural axiomatization. The root idea is that evidence only confirms those axioms of a natural axiomatization needed to derive the evidence. To explain the notion of a natural axiomatization I make recourse to the notion of content introduced in Gemes (1994) and developed in Gemes 1997).

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