Teaching Disciplined Hypothesis-Formation
2010 NewFoundations

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edited 3/9/17

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For a set of anecdotes to be used to generate hypotheses, GO HERE

In the Hypothesizing Exercises to follow we will be dealing with potential scientific hypotheses. These are based, ultimately, on evidence rooted in common experience and investigative procedure enjoying rather broad consensus.

A. Let's begin with some special preliminary definitions:

fact: - something which counts as evidence establishing or disconfirming an hypothesis.

hypothesis: - a tentative explanation. The more facts the hypothesis "weaves together," the more powerful it is.

theory: -a well-established hypothesis.


Note 1: In the sciences, a theory is a form of knowledge, unlike in non-scientific discourse which tends to confuse the terms theory and hypothesis and treat theory as weaker than knowledge. In science, unlike in everyday language, nothing is just "mere theory."
 
Note 2: Disconfirmable hypotheses achieve the status of theory not so much by being confirmed by fact, as by not being disconfirmed by contrary evidence. That is, by withstanding critical experiments. A critical experiment is an investigation undertaken to disconfirm a given hypothesis. B. The nature of hypothesizing has been a item of dispute among scientists and philosophers for a long time. Nonetheless, there are some general "rules of thumb" which are generally agreed to so long as one does apply them uncritically.

The first rule, Disconfirmability, is this:

Formulate the hypothesis so that it is disconfirmable.
That is, we must be able to conceive of something that would count as evidence against the hypothesis, whether our not we are in a position at any particular time to undertake an investigation or experiment.

The second rule, Relative Simplicity, (also called Ockham's Razor) is this:

The simplest of competing adequate hypotheses is to be preferred.
In the Western scientific tradition, risking oversimplification has proven to be more productive than risking overexplanation. William of Ockham's "Razor" in its original formulation....

The third rule, Groundedness, is this: ...

 

 

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