CONFIRMING MATHEMATICAL THEORIES
259may accept a scientiﬁc theory as empirically adequate without
all of it to be true is a possibility that has enough merit to have sustainedconsiderable discussion. At the very least, this possibility has forced philo-sophers to recognize that the empirical adequacy of a scientiﬁc theory iswhat is
conﬁrmed by the activity of scientists, and that to passfrom empirical adequacy to the truth of the theory requires an additionalstep.
The propositional attitudes picked out by the terms “believe” and “accept”are really not as different as might be thought. In fact, the latter may beanalyzed in terms of the former. To believe a
is to believe that thestatements that make it up are true.
To accept a theory is to believe thatthe theory is “adequate” in some relevant sense, but not necessarily that allof the statements that make it up are true. We may also speak of acceptingindividual statements: to accept a statement
(in the context of an accep-ted theory of which it is a part) is to believe it to be “adequate” in somesense, but not necessarily to believe that
is true. Thus the statements of atheory
have a natural partition into the statements that are believed (
)and the statements that are merely accepted (
). In describing a statementas
accepted the implication is, of course, that it is not believed.Similarly, when a theory is described as merely accepted, the implicationwill be that it is not believed and thus that
is non-empty.Analyzing the concept of acceptance in terms of belief avoids animportant criticism that has been successfully leveled against certainpresentations ofit. Ithasbeen argued thatdichotomous (either/or) accountsof propositional attitudes like acceptance are too coarsely grained. We donot accept or reject hypotheses rather, we assign
degrees of belief
Notice, however, that since acceptance of
is analyzed as believing
empirically adequate, if belief comes in degree, then so does acceptance.The essential feature of the idea of acceptance is not that it be an either/oraffair, but rather that it be an attitude toward an hypothesis distinct frombelieving it true. In this discussion, belief, and consequently acceptance,will be understood as being a “matter of degree”.2.2.
Adequacy in Science
To accept an hypothesis is to believe it “adequate” in some relevant sense.In the conﬁrmational setting of science, “adequate” gets ﬂeshed out interms of empirical adequacy. What it means for a scientiﬁc theory to beempirically adequate is that it “gets things right” with respect to what wecan (even potentially) observe. The idea is that an empirically adequate