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Philosophy: Pointer to Salmon

Larry Brownstein writes:

I read your article on induction and deduction and your comments on Deborah Mayo’s approach and thought you might find the following useful in this discussion. It is Wesley Salmon’s Reality and Rationality (2005). Here he argues that Bayesian inferential procedures can replace the hypothetical-deductive method aka the Hempel-Oppenheim theory of explanation. He is concerned about the subjectivity problem, so takes a frequentist approach to the use of Bayes in this context.

Hardly anyone agrees that the H-D approach accounts for scientific explanation. The problem has been to find a replacement. Salmon thought he had found it.

I don’t know this book—but that’s no surprise since I know just about none of the philosophy of science literature that came after Popper, Kuhn, and Lakatos. That’s why I collaborated with Cosma Shalizi. He’s the one who connected me to Deborah Mayo and who put in the recent philosophy references in our articles. Anyway, I’m passing on the above pointer for the benefit of those of you out there who know about these things.


  1. K? O'Rourke says:

    Three comments:

    1. Think you nicely fell inline with the biblical advice on what to pay to whom -“Dialogue with statisticians on statistics and philosophers on philosophy”.

    2. Your comments on posterior predictive checking seem to echo Laplace – “The best should not become the enemy of the good” but your critics may be worried folks do not realize how “not best” it can often be (e.g. same concern as interpreting low power study results as meaning something.)

    3. Salmon seems to have not referenced Peirce (him again) but as Pierce was described as a Hegel who had grown up in the laboratory (doing scientific enquiry) rather than a seminary and as for your question “What can the philosophy of science learn from statistical practice?” – he had most of this experience first hand doing applied statistics using randomization, significant testing, model checking, etc. (all pre 1914) and if he had paid attention to Galton (why wouldn’t he) involving informative priors … that seems unfortunate.

    And I really like your foot note 1 – Thanks.

  2. Reality and Rationality is a collection of Salmon’s papers. In particular Brownstein is I’d guess referring to Salmon’s 1990 “The Appraisal of Theories: Kuhn Meets Bayes” [], which we discuss in our paper (section 6, in the long footnote 31 on p. 24 of the current version, Shorter: I’ve learned a lot from Salmon’s writings, but that was not one of his more convincing efforts.