David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 7 (3) (1986)
This paper gives an account of theory structure in the biomedical sciences with particular emphasis on cardiology. Rather than regarding theories as axiomatizable sets of statements (the so-called received view), theories are regarded as answers to questions which are accepted as legitimate and interesting by scientists within a field of investigation at a given time. This account of theory structure is used to distinguish between theories which are quite liable to be revised during the course of scientific investigation, here called theories within the field, and theories which are more securely established, here called theories of the field. These latter theories can also be regarded as patterns of reasoning which are applied again and again to answer the questions of the field. It is argued that the distinction proposed in this paper fits our intuitive understanding of what it means for a theory to be securely established within a field of research. Several examples are given which show the problems of justifying clinical intervention solely on the basis of theories within the field.
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