The Epistemic Goal of a Concept: Accounting for the Rationality of Semantic Change and Variation

Synthese 177 (1):19-40 (2010)
Abstract
The discussion presents a framework of concepts that is intended to account for the rationality of semantic change and variation, suggesting that each scientific concept consists of three components of content: 1) reference, 2) inferential role, and 3) the epistemic goal pursued with the concept’s use. I argue that in the course of history a concept can change in any of these components, and that change in the concept’s inferential role and reference can be accounted for as being rational relative to the third component, the concept’s epistemic goal. This framework is illustrated and defended by application to the history of the gene concept. It is explained how the molecular gene concept grew rationally out of the classical gene concept despite a change in reference, and why the use and reference of the contemporary molecular gene concept may legitimately vary from context to context.
Keywords Theoretical concepts  Conceptual change  Semantic variation  Epistemic goals  Gene concept
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References found in this work BETA
Richard Boyd (1984). Scientific Realism. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 21 (1&2):767-791.
Ingo Brigandt & Alan Love, Reductionism in Biology. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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Citations of this work BETA
Daniel S. Brooks (2013). Book Reviews. [REVIEW] Journal for General Philosophy of Science 44 (1):235-245.
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