Error and Inference: Recent Exchanges on Experimental Reasoning, Reliability, and the Objectivity and Rationality of Science

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Although both philosophers and scientists are interested in how to obtain reliable knowledge in the face of error, there is a gap between their perspectives that has been an obstacle to progress. By means of a series of exchanges between the editors and leaders from philosophy of science, statistics, and economics, this volume offers a cumulative introduction connecting problems of traditional philosophy of science to problems of inference in statistical and empirical modeling practice. Philosophers of science and scientific practitioners are challenged to reevaluate the assumptions of their own theories – philosophical or methodological. Practitioners may better appreciate the foundational issues around which their questions revolve and thereby become better “applied philosophers.” Conversely, new avenues emerge for finally solving recalcitrant philosophical problems of induction, explanation, and theory testing.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Mayo and Spanos’s collection has injected new ideas into the study of scientific inference. This book offers a welcome bridge between current philosophy of science and scientific practice, providing the reader with new insights on important topics such as statistical inference, reliability, theory testing, causal modeling, and the relation between theory and experiment. The book will have a wide and enthusiastic readership among philosophers and scientists.”
– Cristina Bicchieri, University of Pennsylvania

“Error and Inference straddles philosophy and practice; its lessons should be taken seriously in both. The editors suppose that venerable philosophical problems surrounding induction, scientific inference, and objectivity can be solved. The essays in the book give support to that perspective. They also show that pressing practical problems of scientific inference and testing gain marked benefit from careful attention to philosophers’ account of what makes for evidence, rationality, and objectivity.”
– Nancy Cartwright, London School of Economics

“The error-probabilistic approach developed by Deborah Mayo and Aris Spanos is the main alternative to Bayesianism in contemporary philosophy of science. In this superb volume Mayo and Spanos face their critics and show that error-probabilism is able to solve most theoretical puzzles of statistical testing. If some issue in the field of inductive inference is bothering you, you will probably find an answer in this book.” –
–Francesco Guala, University of Milan

“Mayo, an empirically minded philosopher, and Spanos, a philosophically minded economist, have succeeded beautifully in orchestrating a lively debate over methodological issues related to statistics and empirical testing that – unlike too much of the philosophy of science – speaks to the genuine issues that the practitioners of empirical sciences face daily. Their important volume deserves a broad readership.”
– Kevin Hoover, Duke University

“Mayo and Spanos continue their campaign to bring confirmation theory face-to-face with the methods of scientists, and now extend it to the history of science and to general theories too. This book begins with a fine introduction to Mayo’s error-statistical approach that makes the book a useful teaching tool. But then it carries forward the discussion of this approach with challenging papers from Glymour, Laudan, Achinstein, Worrall, and others.”
– Alexander Rosenberg, Duke University

“This is a wonderful volume. It contains original and stimulating essays by leading figures from both philosophy and statistics on notions of evidence and testing; on how these interact with ideas about causation, explanation, and scientific rationality; and much more besides. The volume also features detailed and illuminating exchanges between the contributors. A must-read for anyone with an interest in these topics.”
– Jim Woodward, California Institute of Technology

"...provide a compact, compelling collection of compact summaries of a variety of neo-inductivist discourses that is especially useful for survey courses in philosophy of science... Recommended..."
– P.D. Skiff, Bard College, Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521880084
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 10/26/2009
  • Pages: 438
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Deborah G. Mayo is a professor in the Department of Philosophy at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, known as Virginia Tech, and holds a visiting appointment in the Center for the Philosophy of Natural and Social Science at the London School of Economics. She is the author of Error and the Growth of Experimental Knowledge, which in 1998 won the Lakatos Prize, awarded for the most outstanding contribution to philosophy of science during the previous six years. Professor Mayo coedited the volume Acceptable Evidence: Science and Values in Risk Management (1991, with R. Hollander) and has published numerous articles on the philosophy and history of science and foundations of statistics and experimental inference and in interdisciplinary works on evidence relevant for regulation and policy.

Aris Spanos is Wilson Schmidt Professor of Economics at Virginia Tech. He has also taught at Birkbeck College, London, the University of Cambridge, the University of California and the University of Cyprus. Professor Spanos is the author of Probability Theory and Statistical Inference (1999) and Statistical Foundations of Econometric Modeling (1986), both published by Cambridge University Press. Professor Spanos's research has appeared in journals such as the Journal of Econometrics, Econometric Theory, Econometric Reviews, and Philosophy of Science. His research interests include the philosophy and methodology of statistical inference and modeling, foundational problems in statistics, statistical adequacy, misspecification testing and respecification, resampling and simulation techniques and modeling speculative prices.

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Table of Contents

Part I. Introduction and Background: 1. Philosophy of methodological practice Deborah Mayo; 2. Error statistical philosophy Deborah Mayo and Aris Spanos; Part II: 3. Severe testing, error statistics, and the growth of theoretical knowledge Deborah Mayo; Part III: 4. Can scientific theories be warranted? Alan Chalmers; 5. Can scientific theories be warranted with severity? Exchanges with Alan Chalmers Deborah Mayo; Part IV: 6. Critical rationalism, explanation and severe tests Alan Musgrave; 7. Towards progressive critical rationalism: exchanges with Alan Musgrave Deborah Mayo; Part V: 8. Error, tests and theory-confirmation John Worrall; 9. Has Worrall saved his theory (on ad hoc saves) in a non ad hoc manner? Exchanges with Worrall Deborah Mayo; Part VI: 10. Mill's sins, or Mayo's errors? Peter Achinstein; 11. Sins of the Bayesian epistemologist: exchanges with Achinstein Deborah Mayo; Part VII: 12. Theory testing in economics and the error statistical perspective Aris Spanos; Part VIII: 13. Frequentist statistics as a theory of inductive inference Deborah Mayo and David Cox; 14. Objectivity and conditionality in Frequentist inference David Cox and Deborah Mayo; 15. An error in the argument from WCP and S to the SLP Deborah Mayo; 16. On a new philosophy of Frequentist inference: exchanges with Cox and Mayo Aris Spanos; Part IX: 17. Explanation and truth Clark Glymour; 18. Explanation and testing: exchanges with Glymour Deborah Mayo; 19. Graphical causal modeling and error statistics: exchanges with Glymour Aris Spanos; Part X: 20. Legal epistemology: the anomaly of affirmative defenses Larry Laudan; 21. Error and the law: exchanges with Laudan Deborah Mayo.

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