Sources of Domain-Independence in the Formal Sciences

Abstract

Any discussion of the concept of “formal science” must acknowledge that the term is used in different ways, for different purposes, by different people. For some, the formal sciences are defined by the exclusive use of deductive methods for discovering, or reasoning about, the properties of formal, abstract systems. On this view, the formal sciences are synonymous with mathematics, formal logic, and certain branches of linguistics and computer science that emphasize the study of formal languages. For others, “formal science” means something like “exact science”, or “formalized science”. On this view, any scientific discipline that places heavy emphasis on mathematical or logical formalization of key theoretical concepts and theories, could be described as a formal science. This latter conception of formal science is much more liberal than the former, and would include all of physics, much of chemistry, and some parts of biology, ecology, psychology and economics, as well as newer computationoriented disciplines like artificial life and artificial intelligence that do not fit easily within the traditional classification of the sciences.

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