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Philosophy Confirmation
by
Franz Huber

Introduction

The term “confirmation” is used in epistemology and the philosophy of science whenever observational data and evidence speak in favor of or support scientific theories and everyday hypotheses. Historically, confirmation has been closely related to the problem of induction, the question of what to believe regarding the future given knowledge that is restricted to the past and present. One relation between confirmation and induction is that the conclusion H of an inductively strong argument with premise E is confirmed by E. If inductive strength comes in degrees and the inductive strength of the argument with premise E and conclusion H is equal to r, then the degree of confirmation of H by E is likewise said to be equal to r.

General Overviews

Most overviews on confirmation are also overviews on probability theory and induction, and some the other way round. The reason is simply that Bayesian confirmation theory, by far the most prominent account of confirmation, is based on probability theory and that confirmation theory is a modern answer to the problem of induction. As is true for so many topics in philosophy, the first sources to consult are the relevant entries of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Hájek 2003, Hawthorne 2004, Joyce 2003), which are available online. Other useful sources that are available online are the relevant entries of the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (diFate 2007, Huber 2007), and Fitelson 2006. A widely used introductory textbook is Skyrms 2000.

  • diFate, Victor. “Evidence.” In Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by James Fieser and Bradley Dowden, 2007.

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    An excellent overview with a focus on epistemological questions that is available online.

  • Fitelson, Branden. “Inductive Logic.” In The Philosophy of Science: An Encyclopedia. Edited by Jessica Pfeifer and Sahotra Sarkar, 384–394. New York: Routledge, 2006.

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    A historically informed and very accessible overview of confirmation and inductive logic.

  • Hájek, Alan. “Probability, Interpretations of.” In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta, 2003.

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    An excellent overview on interpretations of probability that is available online.

  • Hawthorne, John. “Inductive Logic.” In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta, 2004.

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    An excellent overview on inductive logic that is available online.

  • Huber, Franz. “Confirmation and Induction.” In Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by James Fieser and Bradley Dowden, 2007.

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    An opinionated overview that is available online.

  • Joyce, James M. “Bayes’s Theorem.” In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta, 2003.

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    An excellent overview on Thomas Bayes’s theorem and its importance for Bayesian confirmation theory that is available online. Joyce favors a confirmation-theoretic pluralism according to which there are several legitimate measures of incremental confirmation: each of them measures an important evidential relationship, but the relationships they measure are importantly different.

  • Skyrms, Brian. Choice and Chance: An Introduction to Inductive Logic. 4th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Thomson Learning, 2000.

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    This is an elementary introduction by one of the leading figures in the field.

LAST MODIFIED: 06/29/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195396577-0024

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