A Model-Theoretic Realist Interpretation of Science

Dissertation, University of South Africa (South Africa) (1999)
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My model-theoretic realist account of science places linguistic systems and the corresponding non-linguistic structures at different stages of the scientific process. It is shown that science and its progress cannot be analysed in terms of only one of these strata. Philosophy of science literature offers mainly two approaches; to the structure of scientific knowledge analysed in terms of theories and their models, the "statement" and the "non-statement" approaches. In opposition to the statement approach's belief that scientific knowledge is embodied in theories symbolic language) with direct interpretative links---via so-called "bridge principles"---to reality, the defenders of the non-statement approach believe in an analysis where the language in which the theory is formulated plays a much smaller role than the structures which satisfy that theory. ;The model-theoretic realism expounded here retains the notion of a scientific theory as a set of sentences, while simultaneously emphasising the interpretative role of the conceptual models of these theories. My criticism against the non-statement approach is based on the fact that merely "giving" the theory "in terms of" its mathematical structures leaves out any real interpretation of the nature and role of general terms in science. Against the statement approach's "direct" linking of general theoretical terms to reality, my approach interpolates models between theories and reality in the interpretative chain. ;The links between the general terms of scientific theories and their interpretations in the various models of the theory regulate the whole referential process. The terms of a theory are "general" in the sense that they are the result of certain abstractive conceptualisations of the object of scientific investigation and subsequent linguistic formulations of these conceptualisations. Their meanings can be "given back" only by interpreting them in the limited context, of the various conceptual models of their theory and, finally, by finding an isomorphic relation between some substructure of the conceptual model in question and some empirical conceptualisation of relevant experimental data. In this sense the notion of scientific "truth" becomes inextricably linked with that of articulated reference, as it---given its model-dependent nature---should be



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Emma Ruttkamp-Bloem
University of Pretoria

Citations of this work

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On truth and reference in postmodern science.Emma Ruttkamp - 2003 - South African Journal of Philosophy 22 (3):220-235.
One versus many intended applications: Reply to Sjoerd Zwart.Theo A. F. Kuipers - 2005 - Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities 83 (1):396-402.

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