Between the fundamental and the phenomenological: The challenge of 'semi-empirical' methods

Philosophy of Science 64 (4):627-653 (1997)
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Abstract

Philosophers disagree how abstract, theoretical principles can be applied to instances. This paper generates a puzzle for law theorists, causal theorists and inductivists alike. Intractability can force scientists to use a "semi-empirical" method, in which some of an equation's theoretically-determinable parameters are replaced with values taken directly from the data. This is not a purely deductive or inductive process, nor does it involve causes and capacities in any simple way (Humphreys 1995). I argue the predictive successes of such methods require us to reanalyze our views about the nature of prediction, the status of models, and the goal(s) of science. When laws and experimental evidence are neither individually nor jointly sufficient for prediction, models become the locus of understanding. I analyze an historically important debate about the use of semi-empirical methods to construct potential energy surfaces

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Jeffry L. Ramsey
Smith College

Citations of this work

Causality.Jessica M. Wilson - 2006 - In Jessica Pfeifer & Sahotra Sarkar (eds.), The Philosophy of Science: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. pp. 90--100.
Diagnostics in Computational Organic Chemistry.Grant Fisher - 2016 - Foundations of Chemistry 18 (3):241-262.
Of Parameters and Principles: Producing Theory in Twentieth Century Physics and Chemistry.Jeffry Ramsey - 2000 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 31 (4):549-567.
Of Parameters and Principles: Producing Theory in Twentieth Century Physics and Chemistry.Jeffry Ramsey - 2000 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 31 (4):549-567.

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References found in this work

Philosophy of Natural Science.Carl G. Hempel - 1967 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 18 (1):70-72.
Discovering Complexity.William Bechtel, Robert C. Richardson & Scott A. Kleiner - 1996 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 18 (3):363-382.
Discovery and Explanation in Biology and Medicine.Kenneth F. Schaffner - 1995 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 46 (4):621-623.
Models in Physics.Michael Redhead - 1980 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 31 (2):145-163.

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