Combining philosophical and historical scholarship, the articles in this volume focus on scientificconcepts, rather than theories, as units of analysis. They thereby contribute to a growing literature about the role of concepts in scientific research. The authors are particularly interested in exploring the dynamics of research; they investigate the ways in which scientists form and use concepts, rather than in what the concepts themselves represent. The fields treated range from mathematics to virology and (...) genetics, from nuclear physics to psychology, from technology to present-day neural engineering. The volume contains articles by Vassi Kindi, Miles MacLeod, Ingo Brigandt, Friedrich Steinle, Dirk Schlimm, Theodore Arabatzis, Uljana Feest, Corinne Bloch, Mieke Boon, Nancy Nersessian, and Hanne Andersen. (shrink)
The philosophy of science that grew out of logical positivism construed scientific knowledge in terms of set of interconnected beliefs about the world, such as theories and observation statements. Nowadays science is also conceived of as a dynamic process based on the various practices of individual scientists and the institutional settings of science. Two features particularly influence the dynamics of scientific knowledge: epistemic standards and aims (e.g., assumptions about what issues are currently in need of scientific study (...) and explanation). While scientific beliefs are representations of the world, scientific standards and aims are epistemic values. The relevance of epistemic aims and values for belief change has been previously recognized. My paper makes a similar point for scientificconcepts, both by studying how an individual concept changes (in its semantic properties) and by viewing epistemic aims and values tied to individual concepts. (shrink)
Within post−Kuhnian, philosophy of science, much effort has been devoted to issues related to conceptual change, such as incommensurability, scientific progress and realism, but mostly in terms of reference, without a fine−grained theory of scientificconcepts/senses. Within the philosophy of language and of mind tradition, there is a large body of work on concepts, but the application to scientificconcepts has been very tentative. The aim of this paper is to propose a general framework (...) for a theory for the individuation of scientificconcepts. The general view about the individuation of concepts favored here is the possession−condition approach: to individuate a concept is to identify its possession conditions. The general metascientific tools for the analysis of scientific theories are model−theoretic, more specifically, structuralist: scientific theories, the entities to which scientifc concepts belong, are model−theoretic theory−nets. The general idea about the content of scientificconcepts that inspires this proposal comes from: (i) our grandfathers' "laws−plus−correspondence rules", (ii) KuhnŽs "laws applied to exemplars" views and (iii) moderate operationalism. The aim is to show that some clarification can be gained applying the possesion condition appproach to (an expansion of) these three elements using structuralist metascientific tools. First, I briefly present the two main structuralist ideas I shall use: the difference between observability and non−theoreticity, and the notion of theory−net. Second, I informally introduce the five components that come from my reading of the three traditional elements; these components are, or are not, plausible independently of how they will be integrated within a theory of concept−identity. Third, I present the kore of the theory of possession conditions for concept−identity that we shall use for the integration of such components. Finally, I propose the general traits of the possession condition that corresponds to each of these five components, I present some problems and point out some possible ways of dealing with them.. (shrink)
On the basis of a model of the development of scientificconcepts as analogous to the “adaptive radiation” of organisms, I raise questions concerning the speculative project of many environmental philosophers, especially insofar as that project reflects on the relationship between ecology (the science) and ecologism (the worldview or ideology). This relationship is often understood in terms of anopposition to the “modern” worldview, which leads to the identification of ecology as an ally or as a foe of environmental (...) philosophy even as ecological concepts are freely appropriated to inform speculation. I argue that ecology does not fit into the intellectual framework of such an opposition and that its concepts cannot readily be made to serve purposes outside of their specialized context without a loss of meaning. Finally, I suggest that environmental thought might do well to divest itself of its ecologistic commitments, adopting instead a skeptical approach to human-environment relations. (shrink)
This paper asks (a) how new scientific objects of research are onceptualized at a point in time when little is known about them, and (b) how those conceptualizations, in turn, figure in the process of investigating the phenomena in question. Contrasting my approach with existing notions of concepts and situating it in relation to existing discussions about the epistemology of experimentation, I propose to think of concepts as research tools. I elaborate on the conception of a tool (...) that informs my account. Narrowing my focus to phenomena in cognitive neuropsychology, I then illustrate my thesis with the example of the concept of implicit memory. This account is based on an original reconstruction of the nature and function of operationism in psychology. (shrink)
The theory of concepts advanced in the present discussion aims at accounting for a) how a concept makes successful practice possible, and b) how a scientific concept can be subject to rational change in the course of history. To this end, I suggest that each scientific concept consists of three components of content: 1) the concept.
Traditional attempts to delineate the distinctive rationality of modern science have taken it for granted that the purpose of empirical research is to test judgments. The choice of concepts to use in those judgments is therefore seen either a matter of indifference (Popper) or as important choice which must be made, so to speak, in advance of all empirical research (Carnap). I argue that scientific method aims precisely at empirical testing of concepts, and that even the simplest (...)scientific ex- periment or observation results in conceptual change. (shrink)
Recent interpretations of Weber's theory of concept formation have concluded that it is seriously defective and therefore of questionable use in social science. Oakes and Burger have argued that Weber's ideas depend upon Rickert's epistemology, whose arguments Oakes finds to be invalid; by implication, Weber's theory fails. An attempt is made to reconstruct Weber's theory on the basis of his 1904 essay on objectivity. Pivotal to Weber's theory is his distinction between concept and judgment (hypothesis), where the former is the (...) interpretive means to the formation of explanatory accounts (judgments). His theory includes criteria of abstraction and synthesis in the construction of ideal-type concepts as well as criteria for their evaluation. Weber provides a reasonably coherent, if incomplete, theory of concept formation which does not depend on Rickert's epistemological arguments. (shrink)
Using the example of air pollution, I criticize a restricted utilitarian view of environmental risks. It is likely that damage to health due to environmental pollution in Western countries is relatively modest in quantitative terms (especially when considering cancer and comparing such damage to the effects of some life-style exposures). However, a strictly quantitative approach, which ranks priorities according to the burden of disease attributable to single causes, is questionable because it does not consider such aspects as inequalities in the (...) distribution of risks. Secondly, the ability of epidemiological research to identify some health effects is limited. Third, the environment has symbolic and aesthetic components that overcome a strict evaluation of damage based on the impairment of human health. It is not acceptable that priorities be set just balancing the burden of disease caused by pollution in the environment against economic constraints. As an example of a computation that inherently includes economic analysis, I refer to the proposal of an estimator of mortality in coal mining, i.e., a rate which puts deaths in the numerator and tons of coal extracted in the denominator. According to this estimator, mortality due to accidents decreased from 1.15 to 0.42 in the period 1950–1970 in the United States, for each million tons of coal extracted. However, considering the steep decline in the workforce in the same period, the traditional mortality rate (deaths over persons-time) actually increased. The proposal of a measure of mortality based on the amount of coal extracted is just one example of the attempts to influence decisions by including an economic element (productivity) in risk assessment. This paper has three purposes: One, to describe empirical research concerning the health effects of environmental pollutants; two, to discuss the scientific principles and methods used in the identification of environmental hazards; and three, to critically discuss some of the ethical principles which are applied in medicine and in the assessment and management of risk. (shrink)
This paper is concerned with connections between scientific and metaphysical realism. It is not difficult to show that scientific realism, as expounded by Psillos (1999) clearly qualifies as a kind of metaphysical realism in the sense of Putnam (1980). The statement of scientific realism therefore must not only deal with underdetermination and the dynamics of scientific theories but also answer the semantic challenges to metaphysical realism. As will be argued, the common core of these challenges is (...) the proposition that a (metaphysical) realist semantics leads to semantic agnosticism in the sense that we are unable to grasp the proper meanings and referents of our linguistic expressions. Having established this, I will focus more specifically on the question of whether scientific realism—in its state-of-the-art account—has the resources to make reference to scientificconcepts intelligible such that the semantic challenges can be answered. (shrink)
Periodic tables (PTs) are the ‘ultimate paper tools’ of general and inorganic chemistry. There are three fields of open questions concerning the relation between PTs and physics: (i) the relation between the chemical facts and the concept of a periodic system (PS) of chemical elements (CEs) as represented by PTs; (ii) the internal structure of the PS; (iii)␣The relation between the PS and atomistic quantum chemistry. The main open questions refer to (i). The fuzziness of the concepts of chemical (...) properties and of chemical similarities of the CE and their compounds guarantees the autonomy of chemistry. We distinguish between CEs, Elemental Stuffs and Elemental Atoms. We comment on the basic properties of the basic elements. Concerning (ii), two sharp physical numbers (nuclear charge and number of valence electrons) and two coarse fuzzy ranges (ranges of energies and of spatial extensions of the atomic orbitals, AOs) characterize the atoms of the CEs and determine the two-dimensional structure of the PS. Concerning (iii), some relevant ‘facts’ about and from quantum chemistry are reviewed and compared with common ‘textbook facts’. What counts in chemistry is the whole set of nondiffuse orbitals in low-energy average configurations of chemically bonded atoms. Decisive for the periodicity are the energy gaps between the core and valence shells. Diffuse Rydberg orbitals and minute spin–orbit splittings are important in spectroscopy and for philosophers, but less so in chemical science and for the PS. (shrink)
This book examines a selection of philosophical issues in the context of specific episodes in the development of physical theories. Advances in science are presented against the historical and philosophical backgrounds in which they occurred. A major aim is to impress upon the reader the essential role that philosophical considerations have played in the actual practice of science. The book begins with some necessary introduction to the history of ancient and early modern science, with major emphasis being given to the (...) two great watersheds of twentieth-century physics: relativity and, especially, quantum mechanics. At times the term 'construction' may seem more appropriate than 'discovery' for the way theories have developed and, especially in the later chapters, the question of the influence of historical, philosophical and even social factors on the very form and content of scientific theories is discussed. (shrink)
There are no universally adopted answers to the natural questions about scientificconcepts: What are they? What is their structure? What are their functions? How many kinds of them are there? Do they change? Ironically, most if not all scientific monographs or articles mention concepts, but the scientific studies of scientificconcepts are rare in occurrence. It is well known that the necessary stage of any scientific study is constructing the model of (...) objects in question. Many years logical modeling was dominant in the concept studies. Last decades, concepts came to be regarded as the subject of mathematical modeling. However, different authors take different features of concepts as independent variables of their models. Our objective is to characterize informally the spectra of relevant variables for the modeling of scientificconcepts. (shrink)
There are many different ways to think about what has happened before. I think about my own recent actions, and about what happened to me a long time ago; I can think about times before I lived, and about what will happen after my death. I know many things about the past, and about what has happened because people did things before now, or because some good or bad things happened to me.
This paper advances a detailed exploration of the complex relationships among terms, concepts, and synonymy in the UMLS Metathesaurus, and proposes the study and understanding of the Metathesaurus from a model-theoretic perspective. Initial sections provide the background and motivation for such an approach, and a careful informal treatment of these notions is offered as a context and basis for the formal analysis. What emerges from this is a set of puzzles and confusions in the Metathesaurus and its literature pertaining (...) to synonymy and its relation to terms and concepts. A model theory for a segment of the Metathesaurus is then constructed, and its adequacy relative to the informal treatment is demonstrated. Finally, it is shown how this approach clarifies and addresses the puzzles educed from the informal discussion, and how the model-theoretic perspective may be employed to evaluate some fundamental criticisms of the Metathesaurus. (shrink)
Concept formation in science is a reasoned process, commensurate with ordinary problem-solving processes. An account of how analogical reasoning and reasoning from imagistic representations generate new scientificconcepts is presented. The account derives from case studies of concept formation in science and from computational theories of analogical problem solving in cognitive science. Concept formation by analogy is seen to be a process of increasing abstraction from existing conceptual structures.
Mitchell's formulation of the chemiosmotic theory of oxidative phosphorylation in 1961 lacked any experimental support for its three central postulates. The path by which Mitchell reached this theory is explored. A major factor was the role of Mitchell's philosophical system conceived in his student days at Cambridge. This system appears to have become a tacit influence on his work in the sense that Polanyi understood all knowledge to be generated by an interaction between tacit and explicit knowing. Early in his (...) life Mitchell had evolved a simple philosophy based on fluctoids, fluctids and statids which was developed in a thesis submitted for the Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge, England. This aspect of his work was rejected by the examiners and became a tacit element in his intellectual development. It is argued from his various publications that this philosophy can be traced as an underlying theme behind much of Mitchell's theoretical writing in the 50's leading, through his notion of vectorial metabolism, to the formulation and amplification of the chemiosmotic theory in the sixties. This philosophy formed the basis for Mitchell of his understanding of biological systems and gave him his unique approach to cell biology. (shrink)
Learning about a scientific concept often occurs in the context of unfamiliar examples. Mutual alignment analogy ? a type of analogical comparison in which the analogues are only partially understood ? has been shown to facilitate learning from unfamiliar examples . In the present study, we examined the role of mutual alignment analogy in the abstraction and transfer of a complex scientific concept from examples presented in expository texts. Our results provide evidence that (a) promoting comparison between two (...) examples and (b) orienting the learner toward relational commonalities result in greater abstraction and transfer. These findings suggest that mutual alignment analogy is an effective means of promoting abstraction and transfer of complex scientificconcepts, and may thus be used in the classroom to promote learning from unfamiliar examples. (shrink)
This is an interdisciplinary collection of new essays by philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists and historians on the question: What has determined and what should determine the territory or the boundaries of the discipline named "psychology"? Both the contents - in terms of concepts - and the methods - in terms of instruments - are analyzed. Among the contributors are Mitchell Ash, Paul Baltes, Jochen Brandtstädter, Gerd Gigerenzer, Michael Heidelberger, Gerhard Roth, and Thomas Sturm.
This paper focuses on Thomas S. Kuhn's work on taxonomic concepts and how it relates to empirical work from the cognitive sciences on categorization and conceptual development. I shall first review the basic features of Kuhn's family resemblance account and compare to work from the cognitive sciences. I shall then show how Kuhn's account can be extended to cover the development of new taxonomies in science, and I shall illustrate by a detailed case study that Kuhn himself mentioned only (...) briefly in his own work, namely the discovery of X-rays and radioactivity. (shrink)
The idea that scientific objectivity requires a method of concept formation according to which concepts are freely created by the mind was famously propagated by Hermann Weyl. I argue that this idea, which he saw as essentially characterizing what physicists do when they do physics, led him to abandon the phenomenological view on objectivity, more particularly the strong connection between objectivity and evidence (understood in a Husserlian sense as a satisfaction of meaning intentions). The free creation of (...) class='Hi'>concepts, that is ultimately their introduction via Hilbert-style axiomatizations, is at the heart of Weyl's account of scientific objectivity, for it allows the introduction of hypothetical elements, without which, on his view, objectivity collapses (at best) into mere intersubjectivity. (shrink)
Alexander Bird and Darrell Rowbottom have argued for two competing accounts of the concept of scientific progress. For Bird, progress consists in the accumulation of scientific knowledge. For Rowbottom, progress consists in the accumulation of true scientific beliefs. Both appeal to intuitions elicited by thought experiments in support of their views, and it seems fair to say that the debate has reached an impasse. In an attempt to avoid this stalemate, we conduct a systematic study of the (...) factors that underlie judgments about scientific progress. Our results suggest that (internal) justification plays an important role in intuitive judgments about progress, questioning the intuitive support for the claim that the concept of scientific progress is best explained in terms of the accumulation of true scientific belief. (shrink)