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By Carl G. Hempel


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Consider the simple case of the hypothesis H: ‘(x)(Raven(x) 3 Black(x))’, where ‘Raven’ and ‘Black’ are supposed to be terms of our observational vocab­ ulary. Let B be an observation report to the effect that Raven (a) • Black (d) • ^ Raven(c) • Black(c) •^ Raven(d) • ~ Black(d). e. 45 In other words, from the information contained in B we can infer that the hypothesis H does hold true within the finite class of those objects which are mentioned in B. Let us apply the same consideration to a hypothesis of a logically more complex structure.

Its basic idea is very simple: General hypotheses in science as well as in everyday use are intended to enable us to anticipate future events; hence, it seems reasonable to count any prediction that is borne out by subsequent observation as confirming evidence for the hypothesis on which it is based, and any prediction that fails as disconfirming evidence. To illustrate: Let Hx be the hypothesis that all metals, when heated, expand; symbolically: *(x) [(Metal (x) • Heated (x)) 3 Exp(x)]\ If we have an observation report to the effect that a certain object a is metallic and is heated, then by means of we can derive the prediction that a expands.

This deficiency can be remedied as follows: The fact that Bt fails to confirm H x is obviously due to the circumstance that B2contains the indi­ vidual constant ‘b \ without asserting anything about b: The object b is mentioned only in an analytic component ofBa. The atomic constituent *Q(fc)’ will therefore be said to occur (twice) i»iessetitially inBt. Generally, anatomic constituent A of a molecular sentence S will be said to occur incssentially in 5 if by virtue of the rules of the sentential calculusS is equivalent to a molecular sentence in which A does not occur at all.

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