Halvorson argues that the semantic view of theories leads to absurdities. Glymour shows how to inoculate the semantic view against Halvorson's criticisms, namely by making it into a syntactic view of theories. I argue that this modified semantic-syntactic view cannot do the philosophical work that the original "language-free" semantic view was supposed to do.
According to the semantic view of scientific theories, theories are classes of models. I show that this view -- if taken seriously as a formal explication -- leads to absurdities. In particular, this view equates theories that are truly distinct, and it distinguishes theories that are truly equivalent. Furthermore, the semantic view lacks the resources to explicate interesting theoretical relations, such as embeddability of one theory into another. The untenability of the semantic view -- as currently formulated -- threatens to (...) undermine scientific structuralism. (shrink)
Syntactic approaches in the philosophy of science, which are based on formalizations in predicate logic, are often considered in principle inferior to semantic approaches, which are based on formalizations with the help of structures. To compare the two kinds of approach, I identify some ambiguities in common semantic accounts and explicate the concept of a structure in a way that avoids hidden references to a specific vocabulary. From there, I argue that contrary to common opinion (i) unintended models do not (...) pose a significant problem for syntactic approaches to scientific theories, (ii) syntactic approaches can be at least as language-independent as semantic ones, and (iii) in syntactic approaches, scientific theories can be as well connected to the world as in semantic ones. Based on these results, I argue that syntactic and semantic approaches fare equally well when it comes to (iv) ease of application, (v) accommodating the use of models in the sciences, and (vi) capturing the theory-observation relation. (shrink)
Most philosophical accounts on scientific theories are affected by three dogmas or ingrained attitudes. These dogmas have led philosophers to choose between analyzing the internal structure of theories or their historical evolution. In this paper, I turn these three dogmas upside down. I argue (i) that mathematical practices are not epistemically neutral, (ii) that the morphology of theories can be very complex, and (iii) that one should view theoretical knowledge as the combination of internal factors and their intrinsic historicity.
The question “what is an interpretation?” is often intertwined with the perhaps even harder question “what is a scientific theory?”. Given this proximity, we try to clarify the first question to acquire some ground for the latter. The quarrel between the syntactic and semantic conceptions of scientific theories occupied a large part of the scenario of the philosophy of science in the 20th century. For many authors, one of the two currents needed to be victorious. We endorse that such debate, (...) at least in the terms commonly expressed, can be misleading. We argue that the traditional notion of “interpretation” within the syntax/semantic debate is not the same as that of the debate concerning the interpretation of quantum mechanics. As much as the term is the same, the term “interpretation” as employed in quantum mechanics has its meaning beyond (pure) logic. Our main focus here lies on the formal aspects of the solutions to the measurement problem. There are many versions of quantum theory, many of them incompatible with each other. In order to encompass a wider variety of approaches to quantum theory, we propose a different one with an emphasis on pure formalism. This perspective has the intent of elucidating the role of each so-called “interpretation” of quantum mechanics, as well as the precise origin of the need to interpret it. (shrink)
El presente trabajo busca poner al frente y cuestionar uno de los supuestos que incorporan las formalizaciones de García de la Sienra, a saber, que las teorías han de ser reconstruidas de acuerdo con la visión semántica. Caracteriza brevemente las visiones sintáctica y semántica exponiendo el debate entre el enfoque sintáctico y el semántico. Se trata de enfoques distintos que facilitan el estudio de las teorías ante ciertos problemas filosóficos. Habrá problemas y niveles de análisis para los que una visión (...) será apropiada y otros en los que resulte muy limitada. (shrink)
A pluralist view on theories.Marcoen J. T. F. Cabbolet - 2022 - In And now for something completely different: the Elementary Process Theory. Revised, updated and extended 2nd edition of the dissertation with almost the same title. Utrecht: Eburon Academic Publishers. pp. 193-198.details
In philosophy of science, several views have been espoused on the meaning of the term 'theory'; among these are the syntactic view and the semantic view. But even after decades of debate, no consensus has been reached on an all-encompassing positively defined view on theories. Here we take that to mean that the outcome of the debate is that such an all-encompassing view is nonexisting. Correspondingly, the purpose of this paper is to present a pluralist view on theories: it is (...) negatively defined, yet it may break the deadlock in the ongoing debate on the meaning of 'theory'. (shrink)
The received view on the development of the correspondence rules in Carnap’s philosophy of science is that at first, Carnap assumed the explicit definability of all theoretical terms in observational terms and later weakened this assumption. In the end, he conjectured that all observational terms can be explicitly defined in in theoretical terms, but not vice versa. I argue that from the very beginning, Carnap implicitly held this last view, albeit at times in contradiction to his professed position. To establish (...) this point I argue that, first, Carnap’s ‘Über die Aufgabe der Physik’ is a contribution to the philosophy of science of logical empiricism, contrary to Thomas Mormann and in agreement with Herbert Feigl. Second, Michael Friedman misunderstands the ‘Aufgabe’ with his claim that it describes a method for arriving at explicit definitions for theoretical terms. Another received view on Carnap’s philosophy of science is that it assumed a formalization of physical theories that was too detached from actual physics and thus justly disavowed in favor of the semantic view as, for example, developed by van Fraassen. But the ‘Aufgabe’ and related works including the Aufbau show that from the very beginning to his last works, Carnap suggested formalizing physical theories as restrictions in mathematical spaces, as in the state-space conception of scientific theories favored by van Fraassen. (shrink)
This volume has two primary aims: to trace the traditions and changes in methods, concepts, and ideas that brought forth the logical empiricists’ philosophy of physics and to present and analyze the logical empiricists’ various and occasionally contrary ideas about the physical sciences and their philosophical relevance. These original chapters discuss these developments in their original contexts and social and institutional environments, thus showing the various fruitful conceptions and philosophies behind the history of 20th-century philosophy of science. Logical Empiricism and (...) the Natural Sciences is divided into three thematic sections. Part I surveys the influences on logical empiricism’s philosophy of science and physics. It features chapters on Maxwell’s role in the worldview of logical empiricism, on Reichenbach’s account of objectivity, on the impact of Poincaré on Neurath’s early views on scientific method, Frank’s exchanges with Einstein about philosophy of physics, and on the forgotten role of Kurt Grelling. Part II focuses on specific physical theories, including Carnap’s and Reichenbach’s positions on Einstein’s theory of general relativity, Reichenbach’s critique of unified field theory, and the logical empiricists’ reactions to quantum mechanics. The third and final group of chapters widens the scope to philosophy of science and physics in general. It includes contributions on von Mises’ frequentism; Frank’s account of concept formation and confirmation; and the interrelations between Nagel’s, Feigl’s, and Hempel’s versions of logical empiricism. (shrink)
We discuss ways in which category theory might be useful in philosophy of science, in particular for articulating the structure of scientific theories. We argue, moreover, that a categorical approach transcends the syntax-semantics dichotomy in 20th century analytic philosophy of science.
The debate between critics of syntactic and semantic approaches to the formalization of scientific theories has been going on for over 50 years. I structure the debate in light of a recent exchange between Hans Halvorson, Clark Glymour, and Bas van Fraassen and argue that the only remaining disagreement concerns the alleged difference in the dependence of syntactic and semantic approaches on languages of predicate logic. This difference turns out to be illusory.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, philosophers of science have asked, "what kind of thing is a scientific theory?" The logical positivists answered: a scientific theory is a mathematical theory, plus an empirical interpretation of that theory. Moreover, they assumed that a mathematical theory is specified by a set of axioms in a formal language. Later 20th century philosophers questioned this account, arguing instead that a scientific theory need not include a mathematical component; or that the mathematical component need (...) not be specified by a set of axioms in a formal language. We survey various accounts of scientific theories entertained in the 20th century -- removing some misconceptions, and clearing a path for future research. (shrink)
I show that the partial truth of a sentence in a partial structure is equivalent to the truth of that sentence in an expansion of a structure that corresponds naturally to the partial structure. Further, a mapping is a partial homomorphism/partial isomorphism between two partial structures if and only if it is a homomorphism/isomorphism between their corresponding structures. It is a corollary that the partial truth of a sentence in a partial structure is equivalent to the truth of a specific (...) Ramsey sentence in a corresponding structure. Hence the partial structures approach can be expressed in standard first or second-order model theory, and it can be captured in the received view on scientific theories as developed by Carnap and Hempel. (shrink)
Marian Przełęcki’s semantics for the Received View is a good explication of Carnap’s position on the subject, anticipates many discussions and results from both proponents and opponents of the Received View, and can be the basis for a thriving research program.
I show that the central notion of Constructive Empiricism, empirical adequacy, can be expressed syntactically and specifically in the Received View of the logical empiricists. The formalization shows that the Received View is superior to Constructive Empiricism in the treatment of theories involving constants or functions from observable to unobservable objects. It also suggests a formalization of ‘full empirical informativeness’ in Constructive Empiricism.
I defend the Received View on scientific theories as developed by Carnap, Hempel, and Feigl against a number of criticisms based on misconceptions. First, I dispute the claim that the Received View demands axiomatizations in first order logic, and the further claim that these axiomatizations must include axioms for the mathematics used in the scientific theories. Next, I contend that models are important according to the Received View. Finally, I argue against the claim that the Received View is intended to (...) make the concept of a theory more precise. Rather, it is meant as a generalizable framework for explicating specific theories. (shrink)
Philosophy can shed light on mathematical modeling and the juxtaposition of modeling and empirical data. This paper explores three philosophical traditions of the structure of scientific theory—Syntactic, Semantic, and Pragmatic—to show that each illuminates mathematical modeling. The Pragmatic View identifies four critical functions of mathematical modeling: (1) unification of both models and data, (2) model fitting to data, (3) mechanism identification accounting for observation, and (4) prediction of future observations. Such facets are explored using a recent exchange between two groups (...) of mathematical modelers in plant biology. Scientific debate can arise from different modeling philosophies. (shrink)
Recently several philosophers of science have proposed what has come to be known as the semantic account of scientific theories. It is presented as an improvement on the positivist account, which is now called the syntactic account of scientific theories. Bas van Fraassen claims that the syntactic account does not give a satisfactory definition of "empirical adequacy" and "empirical equivalence". He contends that his own semantic account does define these notations acceptably, through the concept of "embeddability", a concept which he (...) claims cannot be defined syntactically. Here, I define a syntactic relation which corresponds to the semantic relation of "embeddability". I suggest that the critical differences between the positivist account and van Fraassen's account have nothing to do with the distinction between semantics and syntax. (shrink)
The article discusses Friedman's classic claim that economics can be based on irrealistic assumptions. It exploits Samuelson's distinction between two "F-twists" (that is, "it is an advantage for an economic theory to use irrealistic assumptions" vs "the more irrealistic the assumptions, the better the economic theory"), as well as Nagel's distinction between three philosophy-of-science construals of the basic claim. On examination, only one of Nagel's construals seems promising enough. It involves the neo-positivistic distinction between theoretical and non-theoretical ("observable") terms; so (...) Friedman would in some sense argue for the major role of theoretical terms in economics. The paper uses a model-theoretic apparatus to refine the selected construal and check whether it can be made to support the claim. This inquiry leads to essentially negative results for both F-twists, and the final conclusion is that they are left unsupported. (shrink)
A rejoinder to commentators of the paper by P. Mongin, "Le réalisme des hypothèses et la "Partial Interpretation View"", Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 18, 1988, p. 281-325. (This paper is listed and made available by Philpapers.).
CONTENTS: 1 Introductory Remark; 2 Formalism of Empirical Theories; 3 Semantics of Formalized Languages; 4 Interpretation of Empirical Theories; 5 Interpretation of Observational Terms; 6 Interpretation of Theoretical Terms; 7 Main Types of Meaning Postulates for Theoretical Terms; 8 Some Other Kinds of Meaning Postulates for Theoretical Terms; 9 Main Types of Statements in an Empirical Theory; 10 Towards a More Realistic Account; 11 Concluding Remarks; 12 Bibliographical Note.
Achinstein, Putnam, and others have urged the rejection of the received view on theories (which construes theories as axiomatic calculi where theoretical terms are given partial observational interpretations by correspondence rules) because (i) the notion of partial interpretation cannot be given precise formulation, and (ii) the observational-theoretical distinction cannot be drawn satisfactorily. I try to show that these are the wrong reasons for rejecting the received view since (i) is false and it is virtually impossible to demonstrate the truth of (...) (ii). Nonetheless, the received view should be rejected because it obscures a number of epistemologically important features of scientific theorizing. I show this by sketching an alternative analysis which reveals some of these features and gives a more faithful picture of scientific theorizing. (shrink)
The title of this monograph needs explanation. It certainly sounds too promising. A more adequate, though more cumbersome one, would read: the logical syntax and semantics of the language of empirical theories. The treatment of this subject in the present monograph needs further qualifications. It focusses on what is characteristic of empirical theories as opposed to others, viz. mathematical ones. Now the difference between these two kinds of theories lies evidently, not in their syntax, but semantics. This is why our (...) main concern here is going to be with the problem of interpretation of empirical theories. The fundamental problem here concerns the distinction between the empirical and the a priori elements inherent in any such theory. Accordingly, our final task must include an explication of concepts such as: meaning postulate, analytic, synthetic, empirically meaningful sentence, and others related to them. (shrink)
German: Unter den nichtlogischen Konstanten der Wissenschaftssprache werden zwei Arten unterschieden, die Beobachtungsterme (z. B. « blau ») und die theoretischen Terme (z. B. « elektrisches Feld »). Die letzteren werden nicht durch Definitionen eingeführt, sondern durch Postulate zweier Arten, nämlich theoretische Postulate, zum Beispiel Grundgesetze der Physik, und Korrespondenzpostulate, die die theoretischen Terme mit Beobachtungstermen verbinden. Wie schon Hilbert gezeigt hat, können in dieser Weise sowohl die Mathematik als auch die theoretische Physik als ungedeutete Kalküle aufgestellt werden. Es wird (...) hier kurz erklärt, dass durch diesen Aufbau auch den mathematischen Termen eine Bedeutung (in einem weiteren Sinne) beigelegt wird. Die theoretischen Terme erhalten durch die Korrespondenzpostulate wenigstens eine unvollständige Deutung. Es wird gezeigt, wie die Unterscheidung von analytischen und synthetischen Sätzen auch für die theoretische Sprache definiert werden kann. -/- English: Among the non‐logical constants of the language of science two kinds are distinguished, the observation terms (e.g., « blue ») and the theoretical terms (e.g., « electric field »). The latter terms are introduced, not by definitions, but by postulates of two kinds, theoretical postulates, e.g., basic laws of physics, and correspondence postulates which connect the theoretical terms with observation terms. As Hilbert has explained, both mathematics and theoretical physics can in this way be constructed in the form of uninterpreted calculi. It is here briefly indicated that by this method of construction also the mathematical terms have meanings (in a wider sense) assigned to them. The theoretical terms obtain at least an incomplete interpretation by means of the correspondence postulates. It is shown how the distinction between analytic and synthetic sentences can be defined also for the theoretical language. (shrink)