Reality in science

South African Journal of Philosophy 18 (2):149-191 (1999)
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One way in which to address the intriguing relations between science and reality is to work via the models (mathematical structures) of formal scientific theories which are interpretations under which these theories turn out to be true. The so-called 'statement approach' to scientific theories -- characteristic for instance of Nagel, Carnap, and Hempel --depicts theories in terms of 'symbolic languages' and some set of 'correspondence rules' or 'definition principles'. The defenders of the oppositionist non-statement approach advocate an analysis where the language in which the theory is formulated plays a much smaller role. They hold that foundational problems in the various sciences can in general be better addressed by focusing on the models these sciences employ than by reformulating the products of these sciences in some appropriate language. My model-theoretic realist account of science lies decidedly within the non-statement context, although I retain the notion of a theory as a deductively closed set of sentences (expressed in some appropriate language), in this paper I shall focus -- against the background of a model-theoretic account of science -- on the approach to the reality-science dichotomy offered by Nancy Cartwright and briefly comment on a few aspects of Roy Bhaskar's transcendental realism. I shall, in conclusion, show how a model-theoretic approach such as mine can combine the best of these two approaches.


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Emma Ruttkamp-Bloem
University of Pretoria

Citations of this work

Folk theories, models and economic reality: A reply to Williams.D. Ross - 1999 - South African Journal of Philosophy 18 (2):247-257.

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