Philosophy Confirmation
by
Justin Dallmann, Franz Huber
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 October 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 April 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0024

Introduction

The term confirmation is used in epistemology and the philosophy of science whenever observational data and other information that is taken for granted 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 information 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 (Crupi 2015, Hájek 2011, Romeijn 2014, Talbott 2008, Vickers 2014), which are available online. Other useful sources Easwaran 2011 and Fitelson 2006 as well as the relevant entries of the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (DiFate 2007, Huber 2007), which are also available online. A widely used introductory textbook is Skyrms 2000.

  • Crupi, Vincenzo. “Confirmation.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2015.

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    An excellent overview of Bayesian confirmation theory, hypothetico-deductivist theories, and Hempel’s theory of confirmation by instances that is available online.

  • DiFate, Victor. “Evidence.” In Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by James Fieser and Bradley Dowden. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 2007.

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

  • Easwaran, Kenny. “Bayesianism II: Applications and Criticisms.” Philosophy Compass 6.5 (2011): 321–332.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-9991.2011.00398.xE-mail Citation »

    A broad and accessible overview covering the main applications of Bayesianism. It includes a very good introduction to confirmation theory and clearly explains the central challenges facing such views.

  • 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. “Interpretations of Probability.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2011.

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

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

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    An opinionated overview that is available online.

  • Romeijn, Jan-Willem “Philosophy of Statistics.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2014.

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    An excellent overview of the philosophy of statistics that is available online.

  • 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.

  • Talbott, William. “Bayesian Epistemology.” In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2008.

    E-mail Citation »

    An excellent overview of Bayesian Epistemology that is available online.

  • Vickers, John. “The Problem of Induction.” In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2014.

    E-mail Citation »

    An excellent overview of paradoxes related to induction, including Hume’s problem of induction, that is available online.

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