Unification: Not Just a Thing of Beauty

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THEORIA. An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science, ISSN: 0495-4548, Vol: 30, Issue: 1, Page: 97-114

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Repository URL:
http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/12924; http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/12135
Votsis, Ioannis
UPV/EHU Press; Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea / Universidad del PaĆ­s Vasco
Arts and Humanities
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article description
There is a strong tendency in science to opt for simpler and more unified hypotheses. A view that has often been voiced is that such qualities, though aesthetically pleasing or beautiful, are at best pragmatic considerations in matters of choosing between rival hypotheses. This essay offers a novel conception and an associated measure of unification, both of which are manifestly more than just pragmatic considerations. The discussion commences with a brief survey of some failed attempts to conceptualise unification. It then proceeds to an analysis of the notions of confirmational connectedness and disconnectedness, as these are essential ingredients in the proposed conception of unification and its associated measure. Roughly speaking, the notions attempt to capture the way support flows or fails to flow between the content parts of a hypothesis. Equally roughly, the more the content of a hypothesis is confirmationally connected, i.e. support flows between its content parts, the more that content is unified. Since the confirmational connectedness of two content parts is determined by purely objective matters of fact, the proposed notion and measure of unification are themselves strictly objective, i.e. not merely pragmatic. The essay concludes with a discussion of how the proposed measure handles several examples but also how it relates to the debate over measures of coherence.