Conceptual dimensions of theory appraisal

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After arguing that Laudan's account of the role of conceptual considerations in theory appraisal is inadequate and unsatisfying in a number of respects, I suggest some of the ways in which we might move to develop an alternative account. This alternative presupposes a problem-solving methodology and, unlike the Laudanian approach, awards a crucial role to empirical research in the resolution of the conceptual problems troubling a theory. Three ways in which a theory may enhance the conceptual resources which it supplies for empirical problem-solving are considered: the fine-tuning of theoretical concepts; the appropriation of the conceptual resources of theories in other domains; and the achievement of greater consilience. Reference is made to several historical cases in which such enhancement actually occurred. © 1988.

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Studies in History and Philosophy of Science