The threshold model of scientific change and the continuity of scientific knowledge

The continuity thesis of the Poznań school threshold model of the growth of scientific knowledge is considered in the light of the example of Van der Waals' and Boyle-Mariotte's laws. It is argued - using both traditional logical means and the structuralist reconstruction of the example - that the continuity thesis does not hold. A distinction between 'a historical and a systematic point of view' is introduced and it is argued that the continuity thesis of the threshold model presupposes the systematic point of view. However, looking at matters from the systematic point of view need not yield the original theory, looked at from the historical point of view. Applied to the case of Van der Waals/Boyle-Mariotte laws, it turns out that the latter law is not a true idealizing special case of the former, contrary to the continuity thesis. The structuralist analysis of the example indicates that Boyle-Mariotte's law is a false factual law from the historical point of view. However, viewed from the systematic point of view, Boyle-Mariotte's law turns out to be a law which is expandable, adding the relevant new concepts, to an idealized version of Van der Waals' law. This idealizing version of Van der Waal's law in turn is a structuralist specialization of the (general) Van der Waals' law
Keywords Threshold model  continuity of knowledge  Poznań School
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DOI 10.1007/BF00763827
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Leszek Nowak (1982). The Structure of Idealization. Studies in Soviet Thought 24 (1):72-75.
Ilkka Niiniluoto (1990). Theories, Approximations, and Idealizations. Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities 16:9-57.

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