Finnur Dellsén

University of Iceland
Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences
  •  12
  •  49
    Scientific Progress Without Justification
    In Kareem Khalifa, Insa Lawler & Elay Shech (eds.), Scientific Understanding and Representation: Modeling in the Physical Sciences, Routledge. forthcoming.
    According to some prominent accounts of scientific progress, e.g. Bird’s epistemic account, accepting new theories is progressive only if the theories are justified in the sense required for knowledge. This paper argues that epistemic justification requirements of this sort should be rejected because they misclassify many paradigmatic instances of scientific progress as non-progressive. In particular, scientific progress would be implausibly rare in cases where (a) scientists are aware that most…Read more
  •  107
    Consensus versus Unanimity: Which Carries More Weight?
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. 2021.
    Around 97% of climate scientists endorse anthropogenic global warming (AGW), the theory that human activities are partly responsible for recent increases in global average temperatures. Clearly, this widespread endorsement of AGW is a reason for non-experts to believe in AGW. But what is the epistemic significance of the fact that some climate scientists do not endorse AGW? This paper contrasts expert unanimity, in which virtually no expert disagrees with some theory, with expert consensus, in w…Read more
  •  101
    An Epistemic Advantage of Accommodation over Prediction
    Philosophers' Imprint. forthcoming.
    Many philosophers have argued that a hypothesis is better confirmed by some data if the hypothesis was not specifically designed to fit the data. ‘Prediction’, they argue, is superior to ‘accommodation’. Others deny that there is any epistemic advantage to prediction, and conclude that prediction and accommodation are epistemically on a par. This paper argues that there is a respect in which accommodation is superior to prediction. Specifically, the information that the data was accommodated rat…Read more
  •  13
    English abstract: This paper discusses the delicate relationship between traditional epistemology and the increasingly influential probabilistic (or ‘Bayesian’) approach to epistemology. The paper introduces some of the key ideas of probabilistic epistemology, including credences or degrees of belief, Bayes’ theorem, conditionalization, and the Dutch Book argument. The tension between traditional and probabilistic epistemology is brought out by considering the lottery and preface paradoxes as th…Read more
  •  26
    English summary: This paper uses research on the COVID-19 pandemic as the backdrop for an accessible discussion of the value and status of science, and of the role of valuesin science. In particular, the paper seeks to debunk three common myths or dogmas about scientific research: (i) that there is such a thing as 'scientific proof' of a theory or hypothesis, (ii) that disagreement is necessarily unhealthy or unnatural in science, (iii) and that personal values play no role in scientific researc…Read more
  •  19
    English summary: This paper engages with a tradition in Icelandic philosophy of theorizing about critical thinking. The central thesis of the paper is that critical thinking should not be identified with scientific thinking, since scientific research is often (and inevitably so) based on a kind of epistemic trust in other scientists' testimony that is incompatible with critical thinking. The paper also criticizes the idea that critical thinking should be associated with any of Charles Peirce's …Read more
  •  15
    English abstract: Feminist philosophers of science have argued that various biases can and do influence the results of scientific investigations. Two kinds of arguments have been most influential: On the one hand, it has been argued that biased assumptions frequently bridge the gap between observation and theory associated with ‘the underdetermination thesis’. On the other hand, it has been argued that biased value judgments determine when the evidence in favor of a particular theory is consider…Read more
  •  23
    English abstract: In order for experts to serve as authorities in our society, people need to trust them when they make claims that fall within their domains of expertise. However, it also seems important for people to think independently and critically about the experts‘ conclusions – one shouldn‘t believe everything one is told. In this paper, I examine this tension with the aim of answering four closely related questions: (1) What is it to trust experts? (2) Why do we often have to rely on ex…Read more
  •  123
    What is scientific progress? This paper advances an interpretation of this question, and an account that serves to answer it (thus interpreted). Roughly, the question is here understood to concern what type of cognitive change with respect to a topic or phenomenon X constitutes a scientific improvement (to a greater or lesser extent) with respect to X. The answer explored in the paper is that the requisite type of cognitive change occurs when scientific results are made publicly available so as …Read more
  •  523
    Is there progress in philosophy? If so, how much? Philosophers have recently argued for a wide range of answers to these questions, from the view that there is no progress whatsoever to the view that philosophy has provided answers to all the big philosophical questions. However, these views are difficult to compare and evaluate, because they rest on very different assumptions about the conditions under which philosophy would make progress. This paper looks to the comparatively mature debate abo…Read more
  •  32
    Manifestationalism holds that science aims only to give us theories that are correct about what has been observed thus far. Several philosophers, including Bas van Fraassen, have argued that manifestationalism cannot make sense of the scientific impetus to make new observations, since such observations only risk turning manifestationally adequate theories into inadequate ones. This paper argues that a strikingly similar objection applies to van Fraassen’s own constructive empiricism, the view th…Read more
  •  135
    We Owe It to Others to Think for Ourselves
    In Jonathan Matheson & Kirk Lougheed (eds.), Epistemic Autonomy, Routledge. 2021.
    We are often urged to figure things out for ourselves rather than to rely on other people’s say-so, and thus be ‘epistemically autonomous’ in one sense of the term. But why? For almost any important question, there will be someone around you who is at least as well placed to answer it correctly. So why bother making up your own mind at all? I consider, and then reject, two ‘egoistic’ answers to this question according to which thinking for oneself is beneficial for the autonomous agent herself. …Read more
  •  37
    A contribution to a symposium on Steven French's book There Are No Such Things as Theories.
  •  201
    Explanatory Consolidation: From ‘Best’ to ‘Good Enough’
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 103 (1): 157-177. 2021.
    In science and everyday life, we often infer that something is true because it would explain some set of facts better than any other hypothesis we can think of. But what if we have reason to believe that there is a better way to explain these facts that we just haven't thought of? Wouldn't that undermine our warrant for believing the best available explanation? Many philosophers have assumed that we can solve such underconsideration problems by stipulating that a hypothesis should not only be 't…Read more
  •  825
    We report the results of a study that investigated the views of researchers working in seven scientific disciplines and in history and philosophy of science in regard to four hypothesized dimensions of scientific realism. Among other things, we found that natural scientists tended to express more strongly realist views than social scientists, that history and philosophy of science scholars tended to express more antirealist views than natural scientists, that van Fraassen’s characterization of s…Read more
  •  265
    The epistemic impact of theorizing: generation bias implies evaluation bias
    Philosophical Studies 177 (12): 3661-3678. 2020.
    It is often argued that while biases routinely influence the generation of scientific theories, a subsequent rational evaluation of such theories will ensure that biases do not affect which theories are ultimately accepted. Against this line of thought, this paper shows that the existence of certain kinds of biases at the generation-stage implies the existence of biases at the evaluation-stage. The key argumentative move is to recognize that a scientist who comes up with a new theory about some …Read more
  •  317
    To understand something involves some sort of commitment to a set of propositions comprising an account of the understood phenomenon. Some take this commitment to be a species of belief; others, such as Elgin and I, take it to be a kind of cognitive policy. This paper takes a step back from debates about the nature of understanding and asks when this commitment involved in understanding is epistemically appropriate, or ‘acceptable’ in Elgin’s terminology. In particular, appealing to lessons from…Read more
  •  382
    We report the results of an exploratory study that examines the judgments of climate scientists, climate policy experts, astrophysicists, and non-experts (N = 3367) about the factors that contribute to the creation and persistence of disagreement within climate science and astrophysics and about how one should respond to expert disagreement. We found that, as compared to non-experts, climate experts believe that within climate science (i) there is less disagreement about climate change, (ii) met…Read more
  •  374
    Should Scientific Realists Embrace Theoretical Conservatism?
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 30-38. 2018.
    A prominent type of scientific realism holds that some important parts of our best current scientific theories are at least approximately true. According to such realists, radically distinct alternatives to these theories or theory-parts are unlikely to be approximately true. Thus one might be tempted to argue, as the prominent anti-realist Kyle Stanford recently did, that realists of this kind have little or no reason to encourage scientists to attempt to identify and develop theoretical altern…Read more
  •  749
    The Epistemic Value of Expert Autonomy
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (2): 344-361. 2018.
    According to an influential Enlightenment ideal, one shouldn't rely epistemically on other people's say-so, at least not if one is in a position to evaluate the relevant evidence for oneself. However, in much recent work in social epistemology, we are urged to dispense with this ideal, which is seen as stemming from a misguided focus on isolated individuals to the exclusion of groups and communities. In this paper, I argue that that an emphasis on the social nature of inquiry should not lead us …Read more
  •  523
    Beyond Explanation: Understanding as Dependency Modeling
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (4): 1261-1286. 2018.
    This paper presents and argues for an account of objectual understanding that aims to do justice to the full range of cases of scientific understanding, including cases in which one does not have an explanation of the understood phenomenon. According to the proposed account, one understands a phenomenon just in case one grasps a sufficiently accurate and comprehensive model of the ways in which it or its features are situated within a network of dependence relations; one’s degree of understandin…Read more
  •  183
    The Epistemic Significance of Disagreement (review)
    Philosophical Quarterly 67 (269): 866-868. 2017.
    Suppose you and I are equally well informed on some factual issue and equally competent in forming beliefs on the basis of the information we possess. Having evaluated this information, each of us independently forms a belief on the issue. However, since neither of us is infallible, we may end up with contrary beliefs. How should I react if I discover that we disagree in this way? According to conciliatory views in the epistemology of disagreement, I should modify my original opinion by moving c…Read more
  •  700
    Scientific progress: Four accounts
    Philosophy Compass 13 (11). 2018.
    Scientists are constantly making observations, carrying out experiments, and analyzing empirical data. Meanwhile, scientific theories are routinely being adopted, revised, discarded, and replaced. But when are such changes to the content of science improvements on what came before? This is the question of scientific progress. One answer is that progress occurs when scientific theories ‘get closer to the truth’, i.e. increase their degree of truthlikeness. A second answer is that progress consist…Read more
  •  323
    Scientific Progress, Understanding, and Knowledge: Reply to Park
    Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 49 (3): 451-459. 2018.
    Dellsén has recently argued for an understanding-based account of scientific progress, the noetic account, according to which science makes cognitive progress precisely when it increases our understanding of some aspect of the world. I contrast this account with Bird’s ; epistemic account, according to which such progress is made precisely when our knowledge of the world is increased or accumulated. In a recent paper, Park criticizes various aspects of my account and his arguments in favor of th…Read more
  •  228
    Promotion as contrastive increase in expected fit
    Philosophical Studies 176 (5): 1263-1290. 2019.
    What is required for an action to promote the satisfaction of a desire? We reject extant answers and propose an alternative. Our account differs from competing answers in two ways: first, it is contrastive, in that actions promote the satisfaction of desires only as contrasted with other possible actions. Second, it employs a notion of expected fit between desire and world, defined as the weighted sum of the fit between the desire and the world in all possible outcomes, where each weight is give…Read more