Understanding and False Theories


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars




For residence at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences during academic year 2006-2007


False theories play a crucial role in our scientific knowledge: we keep many superseded physical theories on the books. It seems very plausible that lasting explanatory contribution is what distinguishes those false theories that we keep on the books from those that are set aside. But how this can be so is not well-understood: there is little agreement concerning the sense in which false theories can be explanatory. This project approaches this topic via a close examination of a central and important case: the relation between classical and quantum mechanics. The intention is to generate insight into the role of false theories in our system of scientific knowledge.