Confirmation for a Modest Realism

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Snyder, Laura J.
conference paper description
William Whewell was clearly wrong to claim that his confirmation criterion of consilience was a truth-guarantor. I argue here, however, that even when consilience gives evidence for a theory that turns out to be false, there is an important sense in which consilience shows that the theory has gotten something right. Consilience is a sign that a theory has uncovered something about the natural-kind structure of the physical world. Because of this, Whewell was correct to claim that consilience provides a “criterion of reality.” In this way consilience can play a role in an argument for scientific realism.