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Accepting vs. Preferring Theories – Reply to David Deutsch

David Deutsch has some misconceptions about epistemology. I explained the issue on Twitter.

I've reproduced the important part below. Quotes are DD, regular text is me.

There's no such thing as 'acceptance' of a theory into the realm of science. Theories are conjectures and remain so. (Popper, Miller.)

We don't accept theories "into the realm of science", we tentatively accept them as fallible, conjectural, non-refuted solutions to problems (in contexts).

But there's no such thing as rejection either. Critical preference (Popper) refers to the state of a debate—often complex, inconsistent, and transient.

Some of them [theories] are preferred (for some purposes) because they seem to have survived criticism that their rivals haven't. That's not the same as having been accepted—even tentatively. I use quantum theory to understand the world, yet am sure it's false.

Tentatively accepting an idea (for a problem context) doesn't mean accepting it as true, so "sure it's false" doesn't contradict acceptance. Acceptance means deciding/evaluating it's non-refuted, rivals are refuted, and you will now act/believe/etc (pending reason to reconsider).

Acceptance deals with the decision point where you move past evaluating the theory, you reach a conclusion (for now, tentatively). you don't consider things forever, sometimes you make judgements and move on to thinking about other things. ofc it's fluid and we often revisit.

Acceptance is clearer word than preference for up-or-down, yes-or-no decisions. Preference often means believing X is better than Y, rather than judging X to have zero flaws (that you know of) & judging Y to be decisively flawed, no good at all (variant of Y could ofc still work)

Acceptance makes sense as a contrast against (tentative) rejection. Preference makes more sense if u think u have a bunch of ideas which u evaluate as having different degrees of goodness, & u prefer the one that currently has the highest score/support/justification/authority.

Update: DD responded, sorta:

You are blocked from following @DavidDeutschOxf and viewing @DavidDeutschOxf's Tweets.

Elliot Temple on April 6, 2018

Comments (6)

> Tentatively accepting an idea (for a problem context) doesn't mean accepting it as true, so "sure it's false" doesn't contradict acceptance.

That is going to sound awfully confusing to most people.

Why does Deutsch say he is sure quantum theory is false?

Anonymous at 9:54 PM on April 7, 2018 | #9734

quantum theory is false

One problem with quantum theory is that there is currently no quantum theory of gravity. The ways people have to come up with quantum mechanical theories didn't work well with gravity.

oh my god it's turpentine at 11:01 PM on April 8, 2018 | #9735


oh my god it's turpentine at 11:20 PM on April 8, 2018 | #9736
Quantum theory and gravity *have been refuted*. There are no non-refuted theories of quantum theory/gravity. Yet we use them.

Anonymous at 2:02 AM on April 10, 2018 | #9737
we use specific parts of quantum theory to solve specific problems. those parts are not refuted for use in those contexts. we have meta theories about what parts can be used for what, which are not refuted, which are what we act on. see https://yesornophilosophy.com

curi at 2:12 AM on April 10, 2018 | #9738
I updated this post with DD's sorta response:

> You are blocked from following @DavidDeutschOxf and viewing @DavidDeutschOxf's Tweets.

curi at 10:53 AM on April 14, 2018 | #9742

What do you think?

(This is a free speech zone!)