Phenomena and patterns in data sets

Erkenntnis 47 (2):217-228 (1997)
Abstract
Bogen and Woodward claim that the function of scientific theories is to account for 'phenomena', which they describe both as investigator-independent constituents of the world and as corresponding to patterns in data sets. I argue that, if phenomena are considered to correspond to patterns in data, it is inadmissible to regard them as investigator-independent entities. Bogen and Woodward's account of phenomena is thus incoherent. I offer an alternative account, according to which phenomena are investigator-relative entities. All the infinitely many patterns that data sets exhibit have equal intrinsic claim to the status of phenomenon: each investigator may stipulate which patterns correspond to phenomena for him or her. My notion of phenomena accords better both with experimental practice and with the historical development of science.
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