Unification and Confirmation



Published 17-02-2016
Ilkka Niiniluoto


According to the traditional requirement, formulated by William Whewell in his account of the "consilience of inductions" in 1840, a scientific hypothesis should have unifying power in the sense that it explains and predicts several mutually independent phenomena. Variants of this notion of consilience or unification include deductive, inductive, and approximate systematization. Inference from surprising phenomena to their theoretical explanations was called abduction by Charles Peirce. As a unifying theory is independently testable by new kinds of phenomena, it should also receive confirmation from its empirical success. The study of the prospects of probabilistic Bayesianism to motivate this kind of criterion for abductive confirmation is shown to lead to two quite distinct conceptions of unification.

How to Cite

Niiniluoto, I. (2016). Unification and Confirmation. THEORIA. An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science, 31(1), 107–123. https://doi.org/10.1387/theoria.13084
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abduction, approximation, consilience, confirmation, systematization, testability, unification