Jesús Zamora Bonilla


ABSTRACTS

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Why are good theories good.

Synthèse

Franz Huber’s (2008) attempt to unify inductivist and hypothetico-deductivist intuitions on confirmation by means of a single measure are examined and compared with previous work on the theory of verisimilitude or truthlikeness. The idea of connecting ‘the logic of confirmation’ with ‘the logic of acceptability’ is also critically discussed, and it is argued that ‘acceptability’ takes necessarily into account some pragmatic criteria, and that at least two normative senses of ‘acceptability’ must be distinguished: ‘acceptable’ in the sense of ‘being allowed to accept’, and ‘acceptable’ in the sense of ‘being obliged to accept’. Lastly, some connections of confirmation theory with naturalism, intertheoretic reduction, and explanation vs. understanding are explored.

 

The nature of co-authorship. A note on recognition sharing and scientific argumentation.

Synthèse

Co-authorship of papers is very common in most areas of science, and it has increased as the complexity of research has strengthened the need for scientific collaboration. But the fact that papers have more than an author tends to complicate the attribution of merit to individual scientists. I argue that collaboration does not necessarily entail co-authorship, but that in many cases the latter is an option that individual authors might not choose, at least in principle: each author might publish in a separate way her own contribution to the collaborative project in which she has taken part, or papers could explicitly state what the contribution of each individual author has been. I ask, hence, why it is that scientists prefer to ‘pool’ their contributions instead of keeping them separate, if what they pursue in their professional careers (besides epistemic goals) is individual recognition. My answer is based on the view of the scientific paper as a piece of argumentation, following an inferentialist approach to scientific knowledge. A few empirical predictions from the model presented here are suggested in the conclusions.

 

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Why social sciences are natural, and why they can't.

Empiría

It is argued that there are no fundamental ontological nor epistemological differences between the natural and the social sciences, though the social realm is so complex and unstable that it makes it difficult the emergence (and, hence, the discovery) of significant robust regularities. As a suggestion of how social sciences might be ‘naturalised’, an abstract model of normative based behaviour is also presented, such that it is coherent with empirical discoveries in cognitive sciences and capable of being implemented in computer simulations.

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The economics of scientific knowledge. (A survey).

Elsevier Handbook of Philosophy of Science

The production of scientific knowledge is a social process that can be analysed with the help of conceptual tools drawn from economic science. A growing literature shows that this analysis is fruitful for the understanding of relevant cognitive aspects of the process of science and its outcomes, and can offer a middle ground between rationalist and constructivist paradigms. Three apoproaches are identified within the economics of scientific knowledge, based respectively in the following ideas: scientific research as an optimisation process, scientific research as a market for ideas, and scientific research as a collection of social mechanisms.

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Evolution, empiricism, and purposeness. A philosophy-of-science criticism of intelligent design.

In Evolutionionism and Religion

In this paper, I shall criticise some essential aspects of the so called ‘Intelligent Design Theory’ (ID), from the point of view of some standard thesis in the philosophy of science. In particular, I shall criticise the notion of ‘explanation’ that underlies ID arguments (sections 1 and 2), in particular William Dembski’s “explanatory filter”, as well as the ideas about ‘information’ and ‘probability’ on which those authors base the arguments, in particular, Dembski’s use of the “no free lunch theorems”.

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Science, the rules of the game.

The Logic Journal

Popper’s suggestion of taking methodological norms as conventions is examined from the point of view of game theory. The game of research is interpreted as a game of persuasion, in the sense that every scientists tries to advance claims, and that her winning the game consists in her colleagues accepting some of those claims as the conclusions of some arguments. Methodological norms are seen as elements in a contract established amongst researchers, that says what inferential moves are legitimate or compulsory in that game. Norms are classified in three groups: rules of internal inference (from claims to claims), entry norms (from events to claims), and exit norms (from claims to actions). It is argued that the value of a set of norms depends on how efficient they are in leading a scientific community to accept claims ranking high in a consensuated scale of epistemic value, and in giving each member of the community a reasonable expectation of winning some games.

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Credibility, idealisation, and model building.

Erkenntnis

In this article we defend the inferential view of scientific models and idealisation. Models are seen as ‘‘inferential prostheses’’ (instruments for surrogative reasoning) construed by means of an idealisation-concretisation process, which we essentially understand as a kind of counterfactual deformation procedure (also analysed in inferential terms). The value of scientific representation is understood in terms not only of the success of the inferential outcomes arrived at with its help, but also of the heuristic power of representation and their capacity to correct and improve our models. This provides us with an argument against Sugden’s account of credible models: the likelihood or realisticness (their ‘‘credibility’’) is not always a good measure of their acceptability. As opposed to ‘‘credibility’’ we propose the notion of ‘‘enlightening’’, which is the capacity of giving us understanding in the sense of an inferential ability.

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What games do scientists play?

EPSA'07 Proceedings

How the game theoretic approach to scientific norms helps to critically defend the rationality and objectivity of scientific knowledge.

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Optimal judgment aggregation.

Philosophy of Science

The constitution of a collective judgment is analysed from a contractarian point of view. The optimal collective judgment is defined as the one that maximises the sum of the utility each member gets from the collective adoption of that judgment. It is argued that judgment aggregation is a different process from the aggregation of information and public deliberation. This entails that the adoption of a collective judgment should not make any rational member of the group change her individual opinion, and so the collective judgment can not have any kind of epistemic superiority over the individual ones.

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Rhetoric, induction, and the free speech dilemma.

Philosophy of Science

Scientists can choose different claims as interpretations of the results of their research. Scientific rhetoric is understood as the attempt to make those claims most beneficial for the scientists’ interests. A rational choice, game-theoretic model is developed to analyze how this choice can be made and to assess it from a normative point of view. The main conclusion is that ‘social’ interests (pursuit of recognition) may conflict with ‘cognitive’ ones when no constraints are put on the choices of the authors of scientific papers, as in an ‘ideal free speech situation’. Scientific institutions may help to solve this conflict. Lastly, some empirical predictions are offered that can inspire future social research of the refereeing process.

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Science studies and the theory of games.

Perspectives on Science

Being scientific research a process of social interaction, this process can be studied from a game-theoretic perspective. Some conceptual and formal instruments that can help to understand scientific research as a game are introduced, and it is argued that game theoretic epistemology provides a middle ground for ‘rationalist’ and ‘constructivist’ theories of scientific knowledge. In the first part (‘The game theoretic logic of scientific discovery’), a description of the essential elements of game of science is made, using an inferentialist conception of rationality. In the second part (‘Sociology of science and its rational reconstructions’), some ideas for the reconstruction of case studies are introduced, and applied to one example: Latour’s analysis of Joliot’s attempt to build an atomic bomb. Lastly, in the third part (‘Fact making games’), a formal analysis of the constitution of scientific consensus is offered.

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Science as a persuasion game.

Episteme

Scientific research is reconstructed as a language game along the lines of Robert Brandom’s inferentialism. Researchers are assumed to aim at persuading their colleagues of the validity of some claims. The assertions each scientist is allowed or committed to make depend on her previous claims and on the inferential norms of her research community. A classifi cation of the most relevant types of inferential rules governing such a game is offered, and some ways in which this inferentialist approach can be used for assessing scientifi c knowledge and practices are explored. Some similarities and differences with a game-theoretic analysis are discussed.

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An economic model of scientific rules.

Economics & Philosophy

Empirical reports on scientific competition show that scientists can be depicted as self-interested, strategically behaving agents. Nevertheless, we argue that recognition-seeking scientists will have an interest in establishing methodological norms which tend to select theories of a high epistemic value, and that these norms will be still more stringent if the epistemic value of theories appears in the utility function of scientists, either directly or instrumentally.

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Scientific inference and the pursuit of fame.

Philosophy of Science

Methodological norms are seen as rules defining a competitive game, and it is argued that rational recognition-seeking scientists can reach a collective agreement about which specific norms serve better their individual interests, especially if the choice is made ‘under a veil of ignorance’, i.e., before knowing what theory will be proposed by each scientist. Norms for theory assessment are distinguished from norms for theory choice (or inference rules), and it is argued that pursuit of recognition only affects this second type of rule. An inference rule similar to ‘eliminative induction’ is defended on the basis of such a possible agreement. According to this contractarian approach, both the explanation and the justification of scientific norms only need to refer to the preferences of individual scientists, without assuming the existence of ‘collective’ points of view.

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Economists, truth-seekers or rent-seekers?

Fact and Fiction in Economics, CUP

This paper proposes to extend economic analysis to the process of production of scientific knowledge in general, and of economic knowledge in particular. The model which is outlined here is based upon two fundamental assumptions: that the members of a scientific discipline can agree on a ‘methodological constitution’ (a system of methodological norms which make it compulsory to accept some data, hypotheses or theories when they have passed some predetermined tests), and that, when disagreement is allowed, the capacity to form coalitions among scientists tends to promote the epistemic efficiency of research. It is also argued that economic science presents some obstacles to the successful application of these mechanisms.

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The elementary economics of scientific consensus.

Theoria

The scientist’s decision of accepting or not accepting a given proposition is assumed to depend on two factors: the scientist’s ‘private’ information about that statement and the proportion of colleagues who also accept it. This interdependence may lead to multiple equilibria. The main conclusions are that the evolution of scientific knowledge can be pathdependent, and that not all possible equilibria are necessarily efficient. It is also studied the possibility of collective decisions about the acceptance of scientific statements.

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Truthlikeness without truth. (My first published paper).

Synthese

In this paper, an attempt is made of solving various problems posed to current theories of verisimilitude: (1) the problem of linguistic dependence; (2) the problem of which are the best scientific methods for getting the most verisimilar theories, and (3) the question of the ontological commitment of scientific theories. As a result of the solution offered to this problem, I conclude that the notion of 'Tarskian' truth is dispensable in a rational (and 'realist') interpretation of the scientific enterprise. As a logical result, falsificationism will be vindicated.

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Verisimilitude, structuralism, and scientific progress.

Erkenntnis

An epistemic notion of verisimilitude (as the 'degree in which a theory seems closer to the full truth to a scientific community') is defined in several ways. Application to the structuralist description of theories is carried out by introducing a notion of 'empirical regularity' in structuralist terms. It is argued that these definitions of verisimilitude can be used to give formal reconstructions of scientific methodologies such as falsificationism, conventionalism and normal science.

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Verisimilitude and the dynamics of scientific research programmes.

Journal of General Philosophy of Science

Some peculiarities of the evaluation of theories within scientific research programmes (SRPs) and of the assessing of rival SRPs are described assuming that scientists try to maximise an ‘epistemic utility function’ under economic and institutional constraints. Special attention is given to Lakatos’ concepts of ‘empirical progress’ and ‘theoretical progress’. A notion of ‘empirical verisimilitude’ is defended as an appropriate utility function. The neologism ’methodonomics’ is applied to this kind of studies.

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Truthlikeness, rationality, and scientific method.

Synthese

I. A. Kieseppä’s criticism of the methodological use of the theory of verisimilitude, and D. B. Resnik’s arguments against the explanation of scientific method by appeal to scientific aims are critically considered. Since the notion of verisimilitude was introduced as an attempt to show that science can be seen as a rational enterprise in the pursuit of truth, defenders of the verisimilitude programme need to show that scientific norms can be interpreted (at least in principle) as rules that try to increase the degree of truthlikeness of scientific theories. This possibility is explored for several approaches to the problem of verisimilitude.

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Verisimilitude and the scientific strategy of economic theory.

Journal of Economic Methodology

Methodological norms in economic theorising are interpreted as rational strategies to optimise some epistemic utility functions. A definition of ‘empirical verisimilitude’ is defended as a plausible interpretation of the epistemic preferences of researchers. Some salient differences between the scientific strategies of physics and of economics are derived from the comparison of the relative costs associated to each strategy. The classical discussion about the ‘realism of assumptions’ in economics is also considered under the light of the concept of ‘empirical verisimilitude’.

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Truthlikeness with a human face.

Poznan Studies (Essays in debate with Theo Kuipers)

Verisimilitude theorists (and many scientific realists) assume that science attempts to provide hypotheses with an increasing degree of closeness to the full truth; on the other hand, radical sociologists of science assert that flesh and bone scientists struggle to attain much more mundane goals (such as income, power, fame, and so on). This paper argues that both points of view can be made compatible, for (1) rational individuals only would be interested in engaging in a strong competition (such as that described by radical sociologists) if they knew in advance the rules under which their outcomes are to be assessed, and (2), if these rules have to be chosen “under a veil of ignorance” (i.e., before knowing what specific theory each scientist is going to devise), then rules favoring highly verisimilar theories can be prefered by researchers to other methodological rules.

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Meaning and testability in the structuralist theory of science. (My first application of inferentialism).

Erkenntnis

The connection between scientific knowledge and our empirical access to reality is not well explained within the structuralist approach to scientific theories. I argue that this is due to the use of a semantics not rich enough from the philosophical point of view. My proposal is to employ Sellars–Brandom’s inferential semantics to understand how can scientific terms have empirical content, and Hintikka’s game-theoretical semantics to analyse how can theories be empirically tested. The main conclusions are that scientific concepts gain their meaning through ‘basic theories’ grounded on ‘common sense’, and that scientific method usually allows the pragmatic verification and falsification of scientific theories.

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The surprise exam paradox.

Journal of Economic Methodology

The surprise exam paradox has attracted the attention of prominent logicians, mathematicians and philosophers for decades. Although the paradox itself has been resolved at least since Quine (1953), some aspects of it are still being discussed. In this paper we propose, following Sober (1998), to translate the paradox into the language of game theory to clarify these aspects. Our main conclusions are that a much simpler game-theoretic analysis of the paradox is possible, which solves most of the puzzles related to it, and that this way of analysing the paradox can also throw light on our comprehension of the pragmatics of linguistic communication.

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