Scientific Progress and Conceptual Consistency

PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1984:137 - 145 (1984)
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Abstract

One of the key interpretative problems generated by the development of quantum theory was the conceptual consistency underlying scientific change, a problem not adequately treated by any of the leading theories of scientific development. In different but related ways Quine, Sellars, and Davidson have treated the problem of conceptual consistency by showing how one can begin with ordinary language and proceed to specialized extensions. Their techniques have not been applied to modern physics. However, one basis for applying them arises from the deep similarities between some of the work of these analysts and the Copenhagen interpretation rightly interpreted. To make this more concrete three concepts whose meanings have changed as a result of scientific progress are considered: 'atom', 'state of a system', and 'particle'. Each functions in a different way and requires a different type of analysis.

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Edward MacKinnon
California State University, Hayward

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