Abduction Aiming at Empirical Progress or Even Truth Approximation: A Challenge for Computational Modelling

  • Theo A. F. Kuipers
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 399)


This chapter primarily deals with the conceptual prospects for generalizing the aim of abduction from the standard one of explaining surprising or anomalous observations to that of empirical progress or even truth approximation. It turns out that the main abduction task then becomes the instrumentalist task of theory revision aiming at an empirically more successful theory, relative to the available data, but not necessarily compatible with them. The rest, that is, genuine empirical progress as well as observational, referential and theoretical truth approximation, is a matter of evaluation and selection, and possibly new generation tasks for further improvement. The chapter concludes with a survey of possible points of departure, in AI and logic, for computational treatment of the instrumentalist task guided by the ‘comparative evaluation matrix’.


Abduction Abduction task Instrumentalist task Empirical progress Truth approximation Truthlikeness Computational modelling Comparative evaluation matrix 


  1. Aliseda, A. (1997). Seeking explanations: Abduction in logic, philosophy of science and artificial intelligence. Dissertation Stanford. Amsterdam: ILLC Dissertations Series (1997-04).Google Scholar
  2. Aliseda, A. (2005). Lacunae, empirical progress, and semantic tableaux. In A. Aliseda, R. Festa, & J. Peijnenburg (Eds.), Confirmation, empirical progress and truth approximation. Essays in debate with Theo Kuipers (Vol. 1, pp. 169–189). Amsterdam: Rodopi (Reply by T. Kuipers, 190–192).Google Scholar
  3. Aliseda, A. (2006). Abductive reasoning. Logical investigations into discovery and explanation. Synthese Library 330. Dordrecht: Springer (Extended and revised version of Aliseda, 1997).Google Scholar
  4. Andersen, H. (2009). Unexpected discoveries, graded structures, and the difference between acceptance and neglect. In J. Meheus & T. Nickles (Eds.), Models of discovery and creativity (pp. 1–27). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  5. Darden, L. (1991). Theory change in science: Strategies from Mendelian genetics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Forbus, K. (1984). Qualitative process theory. Artificial Intelligence, 24, 85–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Gärdenfors, P. (1988). Knowledge in flux: Modeling the dynamics of epistemic states. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  8. Gemes, K. (1994). A new theory of content. Journal of Philosophical Logic, 23, 596–620.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Konolige, K. (1990). A general theory of abduction. In Automated abduction, Working notes. Spring symposium series of the AAA (pp. 62–66). Stanford: Stanford University.Google Scholar
  10. Konolige, K. (1996). Abductive theories in artificial intelligence. In G. Brewka (Ed.), Principles of knowledge representations (pp. 129–152). Stanford: CSLI Publications, Stanford University.Google Scholar
  11. Kuipers, T. (1993). On the architecture of computational theory selection. In R. Casati & G. White (Eds.), Philosophy and the cognitive sciences (pp. 271–278). Kirchberg: Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society.Google Scholar
  12. Kuipers, T. (2000). From instrumentalism to constructive realism. On some relations between confirmation, empirical progress, and truth approximation. Synthese Library 287. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  13. Kuipers, T., Vos, R., & Sie, H. (1992). Design research programs and the logic of their development. Erkenntnis, 37(1), 37–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Lakatos, I. (1976). Proofs and refutations: the logic of mathematical discovery. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Mayer, C., & Pirri, F. (1993). First order abduction via tableau and sequent calculi. Bulletin of the IGPL, 1, 99–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. McAllister, J. (1996). Beauty and revolution in science. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Meheus, J. (2005). Empirical progress and ampliative abductive logics. In A. Aliseda, R. Festa, & J. Peijnenburg (Eds.), Confirmation, empirical progress and truth approximation. Essays in debate with Theo Kuipers (Vol. 1, pp. 193–217). Amsterdam: Rodopi (Reply by T. Kuipers, 218–220).Google Scholar
  18. Pirri, F. (1995). Abduction. PhD Dissertation. Paris: Université de Paris VI, Pierre et Marie Curie.Google Scholar
  19. Shrager, J., & Langley, P. (Eds.). (1990). Computational models of scientific discovery and theory formation. San Mateo: Kaufmann.Google Scholar
  20. Thagard, P. (1988). Computational philosophy of science. Cambridge: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Thagard, P. (1992). Conceptual revolutions. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  22. van den Bosch, A. (1999). Inference to the best manipulation – A case study of qualitative reasoning. Foundations of Science, 4(4), 483–495.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. van den Bosch, A. (2001). Rationality in discovery. Amsterdam: ILLC Publications.Google Scholar
  24. van den Bosch, A.. (2005). Structures in neuropharmacology. In A. Aliseda, R. Festa, & J. Peijnenburg (Eds.), Cognitive structures in scientific inquiry. Essays in debate with Theo Kuipers (Vol. 2, pp. 343–359). Amsterdam: Rodopi (Reply by T. Kuipers, 360–364).Google Scholar
  25. Vreeswijk, G. (2005). Direct connectionistic methods for scientific theory formation. In A. Aliseda, R. Festa, & J. Peijnenburg (Eds.), Cognitive structures in scientific inquiry. Essays in debate with Theo Kuipers (Vol. 2, pp. 375–403). Amsterdam: Rodopi (Reply by T. Kuipers, 404–406).Google Scholar
  26. Zwart, S. (1998). Approach to the truth. Verisimilitude and truthlikeness. PhD-thesis. Amsterdam: ILLC.Google Scholar
  27. Zwart, S. (2001). Refined verisimilitude. Synthese Library 307. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Theo A. F. Kuipers
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Theoretical PhilosophyUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations