What's Right with a Syntactic Approach to Theories and Models?

Erkenntnis (S8):1-18 (2014)
Syntactic approaches in the philosophy of science, which are based on formalizations in predicate logic, are often considered in principle inferior to semantic approaches, which are based on formalizations with the help of structures. To compare the two kinds of approach, I identify some ambiguities in common semantic accounts and explicate the concept of a structure in a way that avoids hidden references to a specific vocabulary. From there, I argue that contrary to common opinion (i) unintended models do not pose a significant problem for syntactic approaches to scientific theories, (ii) syntactic approaches can be at least as language-independent as semantic ones, and (iii) in syntactic approaches, scientific theories can be as well connected to the world as in semantic ones. Based on these results, I argue that syntactic and semantic approaches fare equally well when it comes to (iv) ease of application, (v) accommodating the use of models in the sciences, and (vi) capturing the theory-observation relation
Keywords syntactic approach  syntactic view  received view  semantic approach  semantic view  structuralism  scientific models  formalization  language independence
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DOI 10.1007/s10670-013-9578-5
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Wilfrid Hodges, Model Theory. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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