What’s Right with a Syntactic Approach to Theories and Models?

Erkenntnis (S8):1-18 (2010)
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Abstract

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

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Sebastian Lutz
Uppsala University

Citations of this work

Sophistication about Symmetries.Neil Dewar - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (2):485-521.
What Was the Syntax‐Semantics Debate in the Philosophy of Science About?Sebastian Lutz - 2017 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 95 (2):319-352.
On a Straw Man in the Philosophy of Science - A Defense of the Received View.Sebastian Lutz - 2012 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 2 (1):77–120.
Part 2: Theoretical equivalence in physics.James Owen Weatherall - 2019 - Philosophy Compass 14 (5):e12591.

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References found in this work

Models in Science (2nd edition).Roman Frigg & Stephan Hartmann - 2021 - The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Laws and symmetry.Bas C. van Fraassen - 1989 - New York: Oxford University Press.
The Scientific Image.William Demopoulos & Bas C. van Fraassen - 1982 - Philosophical Review 91 (4):603.
Scientific Representation: Paradoxes of Perspective.Bas C. Van Fraassen - 2008 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK.

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