Criteria of empirical significance: a success story

Abstract

The sheer multitude of criteria of empirical significance has been taken as evidence that the pre-analytic notion being explicated is too vague to be useful. I show instead that a significant number of these criteria—by Ayer, Popper, Przełęcki, Suppes, and David Lewis, among others—not only form a coherent whole, but also connect directly to the theory of definition, the notion of empirical content as explicated by Ramsey sentences, and the theory of measurement; two criteria by Carnap and Sober are trivial, but can be saved and connected to the other criteria by slight modifications. A corollary is that the ordinary language defense of Lewis, the conceptual arguments by Ayer and Popper, the theoretical considerations by Przełęcki, and the practical considerations by Suppes all apply to the same criterion or closely related criteria. Furthermore, the equivalence of some criteria allows for their individual justifications to be taken cumulatively and, together with the entailment relations between nonequivalent criteria, suggest criteria for general auxiliary assumptions, comparative criteria, and more liberal conceptions of observation.

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Sebastian Lutz
Uppsala University