The Logic of Reliable Inquiry

The Logic of Reliable Inquiry

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This book considers the question of the reliability of scientific methods. One method of inquiry can be said to be more reliable than another if it eventually arrives at the truth in more possible circumstances than the other method can. Kelly begins with a discussion of the philosophical significance of reliability, examines the reliability of computable methods, provides a general, topological perspective on reliable inference by "ideal" agents, and investigates the possibility of reliable enquiry in the face of theory-laden evidence and incommensurability. The text is extensively and amusingly illustrated and assumes only introductory knowledge of basic logic and computability theory.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 448 pages
  • 154 x 228 x 34mm | 839.14g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • numerous line figures
  • 0195091957
  • 9780195091953
  • 1,534,053

Back cover copy

There are many proposed aims for scientific inquiry - to explain or predict events, to confirm or falsify hypotheses, or to find hypotheses that cohere with our other beliefs in some logical or probabilistic sense. This book is devoted to a different proposal - that the logical structure of the scientist's method should guarantee eventual arrival at the truth, given the scientist's background assumptions. Interest in this methodological property, called "logical reliability", stems from formal learning theory, which draws its insights not from the theory of probability, but from the theory of computability. Kelly first offers an accessible explanation of formal learning theory, then goes on to develop and explore a systematic framework in which various standard learning-theoretic results can be seen as special cases of simpler and more general considerations. Finally, Kelly clarifies the relationship between the resulting framework and other standard issues in the philosophy of science, such as probability, causation, and relativism. Extensively illustrated with figures by the author, The Logic of Reliable Inquiry assumes only introductory knowledge of basic logic and computability theory. It is a major contribution to the literature and will be essential reading for scientists, statiticians, psychologists, linguists, logicians, and philosophers.
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Table of contents

Introduction ; 1. Reliable Inquiry ; 2. The Demons of Passive Observation ; 3. Topology and Ideal Hypothesis Assessment ; 4. Continuity, Reducibility, and the Game of Science ; 5. The Demons of Computability ; 6. Computers in Search of Truth ; 7. So Much Time, Such Little Brains ; 8. The Logic of Ideal Discovery ; 9. Computerized Discobvery ; 10. Prediction ; 11. The Assessment and Discovery of First-order Theories ; 12. Probability and Reliability ; 13. Experiment and Causal Inference ; 14. Relativism and Reliability
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