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Summary Operationalism is the view that the meaning of scientific concepts is to be given in terms of the operations which govern the application of such concepts.  The principal advocate of operationalism was the Nobel-prize winning physicist Percy Bridgman (1882-1961) who developed the approach primarily with respect to physical concepts, such as length, space and time.  Outside physics, operationalism had some influence in the development of behavioural psychology.  With its emphasis on the operations employed in the application of a concept, operationalism resembles the logical positivist's verificationist view of meaning, though it focuses on the meaning of individual words rather than sentences.  Now widely rejected, one of the main problems with operationalism is that the use of different operations for measuring the same magnitude generates different concepts, so that no unified concept of a magnitude exists if multiple means of measuring the magnitude exist.
Key works A classic reference for operationalism is Bridgman 1927.  See also Bridgman 1938, which responds to Lindsay 1937.
Introductions Chang 2010; Benjamin 1937.
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47 found
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  1. added 2019-09-21
    Moral Hazard, the Savage Framework, and State-Dependent Utility.Jean Baccelli - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-21.
    In this paper, I investigate the betting behavior of a decision-maker who can influence the likelihood of the events upon which she is betting. In decision theory, this is best known as a situation of moral hazard. Focusing on a particularly simple case, I sketch the first systematic analysis of moral hazard in the canonical Savage framework. From the results of this analysis, I draw two philosophical conclusions. First, from an observational and a descriptive point of view, there need to (...)
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  2. added 2019-09-21
    The Problem of State-Dependent Utility: A Reappraisal.Jean Baccelli - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axz024.
    State-dependent utility is a problem for the behavioural branch of decision theory under uncertainty. It questions the very possibility that beliefs be revealed by choice data. According to the current literature, all models of beliefs are equally exposed to the problem. Moreover, the problem is solvable only when the decision-maker can influence the resolution of uncertainty. This paper gives grounds to reject these two views. The various models of beliefs can be shown to be unequally exposed to the problem of (...)
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  3. added 2019-09-21
    Do Bets Reveal Beliefs?Jean Baccelli - 2017 - Synthese 194 (9):3393-3419.
    This paper examines the preference-based approach to the identification of beliefs. It focuses on the main problem to which this approach is exposed, namely that of state-dependent utility. First, the problem is illustrated in full detail. Four types of state-dependent utility issues are distinguished. Second, a comprehensive strategy for identifying beliefs under state-dependent utility is presented and discussed. For the problem to be solved following this strategy, however, preferences need to extend beyond choices. We claim that this a necessary feature (...)
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  4. added 2019-09-21
    Le comportement et le concept de choix.Jean Baccelli - 2013 - Dialogue 52 (1):43-60.
    This note considers the conceptual part of Sen’s «Internal Consistency of Choice». Amongst the various claims this paper features, two are singled out. A first, negative, claim is that no formal condition of choice consistency is normatively compelling without exception. A second, positive, claim, is that a formal condition of choice consistency is normatively compelling only under some assumptions involving preference. Here, the puzzling choices Sen puts forward are scrutinized and it is argued that such a scrutiny leads to question (...)
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  5. added 2019-08-08
    Hugo Dingler.Gereon Wolters - 1988 - Science in Context 2 (2):359-367, 406-408.
    This is an introduction to the English translation of Hogo Dingler's (1881-1954) grounsbreaking paper "Methodik statt Erkenntnistheorie und Wissenschaftslehre". Dingler is the founder of operationalism in physics and relatively little know in the Anglophone world.
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  6. added 2019-06-06
    P. W. Bridgman's Operational Analysis: The Differential Aspect.G. Schlesinger - 1958 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 9 (33):299.
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  7. added 2018-12-21
    Book Review:The Way Things Are P. W. Bridgman. [REVIEW]John Luccdea - 1960 - Philosophy of Science 27 (2):208-.
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  8. added 2018-12-21
    Operationism.Raymond J. Nogar - 1956 - New Scholasticism 30 (3):380-382.
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  9. added 2018-12-09
    Operationism Analysed Operationally.Hornell Hart - 1940 - Philosophy of Science 7 (3):288-313.
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  10. added 2018-10-14
    The Reality of Operationism: A Rejoinder.Howard Kendler - 1981 - Journal of Mind and Behavior 2 (3).
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  11. added 2018-10-14
    The Myth of Operationism.Thomas Leahy - 1980 - Journal of Mind and Behavior 1 (2).
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  12. added 2018-02-18
    The Operational Imperative: Sense and Nonsense in Operationism.David L. Hull - 1968 - Systematic Zoology 17 (4):438-457.
    Several important terms in biology have recently been criticized for not being "operational." In this paper the course of operationism in physics, psychology and genetics is sketched to show what effect this particular view on the meaning of scientific terms had on these disciplines. Then the biological species concept and the concept of homology are examined to see in what respects they are or are not "operational." One of the primary conclusions of this investigation is that few terms in science (...)
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  13. added 2017-11-28
    Armchair Philosophy Naturalized.Sebastian Lutz - forthcoming - Synthese.
    Carnap suggests that philosophy can be construed as being engaged solely in conceptual engineering. I argue that since many results of the sciences can be construed as stemming from conceptual engineering as well, Carnap’s account of philosophy can be methodologically naturalistic. This is also how he conceived of his account. That the sciences can be construed as relying heavily on conceptual engineering is supported by empirical investigations into scientific methodology, but also by a number of conceptual considerations. I present a (...)
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  14. added 2017-11-24
    Popper’s Response to Dingle on Special Relativity and the Problem of the Observer.Peter Hayes - 2010 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 41 (4):354-361.
  15. added 2017-03-17
    The Ambivalent Legacy of Operationism.M. Bunge - 1988 - Philosophia Naturalis 25 (3/4):337-345.
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  16. added 2017-03-17
    Book Review:Operationism A. Cornelius Benjamin. [REVIEW]Sylvain Bromberger - 1957 - Philosophy of Science 24 (1):89-.
  17. added 2015-05-16
    The Essential Problem of Empiricism.A. Cornelius Benjamin - 1943 - Philosophy of Science 10 (1):13-17.
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  18. added 2015-04-04
    Some Recent Conceptions of Operationalism and Operationalizing.Paul Marshall - 1979 - Philosophia Reformata 44:46.
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  19. added 2015-03-26
    On Component Forces in Physics: A Pragmatic View.Darrell Patrick Rowbottom - 2016 - In Hsiang-Ke Chao, Julian Reiss & Szu-Ting Chen (eds.), Philosophy of Science in Practice: Nancy Cartwright and the nature of scientific reasoning.
    Do component forces exist? I argue that the answer lies in the affirmative, on historical and operational grounds.
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  20. added 2015-03-23
    Operationalism.G. Schlesinger - 1967 - In Paul Edwards (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. New York: Macmillan. pp. 5--543.
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  21. added 2014-10-22
    On the Principle of Operationism in a Science of Behavior.Jay Moore - 1975 - Behaviorism 3 (2):120-138.
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  22. added 2014-10-12
    Skinnerian Metaphysics and the Problem of Operationism.Owen J. Flanagan - 1980 - Behaviorism 8 (1):1-13.
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  23. added 2014-07-19
    A Possible Operational Motivation for the Orthocomplementation in Quantum Structures.Bart D’Hooghe - 2010 - Foundations of Physics 40 (11):1669-1680.
    In the foundations of quantum mechanics Gleason’s theorem dictates the uniqueness of the state transition probability via the inner product of the corresponding state vectors in Hilbert space, independent of which measurement context induces this transition. We argue that the state transition probability should not be regarded as a secondary concept which can be derived from the structure on the set of states and properties, but instead should be regarded as a primitive concept for which measurement context is crucial. Accordingly, (...)
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  24. added 2014-07-13
    Operationism, Probability and Quantum Mechanics.Maria Carla Galavotti - 1995 - Foundations of Science 1 (1):99-118.
    This paper investigates the kind of empiricism combined with an operationalist perspective that, in the first decades of our Century, gave rise to a turning point in theoretical physics and in probability theory. While quantum mechanics was taking shape, the classical (Laplacian) interpretation of probability gave way to two divergent perspectives: frequentism and subjectivism. Frequentism gained wide acceptance among theoretical physicists. Subjectivism, on the other hand, was never held to be a serious candidate for application to physical theories, despite the (...)
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  25. added 2014-07-03
    The Conceptual Analysis (CA) Method in Theories of Microchannels: Application to Quantum Theory. Part I. Fundamental Concepts. [REVIEW]F. Jenč - 1979 - Foundations of Physics 9 (7-8):589-608.
    A method is proposed that should facilitate the construction of theories of “submicroscopic particles” (denoted as “theories of microchannels”) in a way similar to the use of group-theoretical methods. The “conceptual analysis” (CA) method is based on the analysis of the basic concepts of a theory; it permits a determination of necessary conditions imposed on the mathematical apparatus (of the theory) which then appear as a mathematical representation of the structures obtained in a formal scheme of a theory. A pertinent (...)
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  26. added 2014-03-31
    First-Person Operationalism and Mental Taxonomy.David M. Rosenthal - 1994 - Philosophical Topics 22 (1/2):319-349.
  27. added 2014-03-26
    Topology, Empiricism, and Operationalism.Ernest W. Adams - 1996 - The Monist 79 (1):1--20.
    How do concepts of topology such as that of a boundary apply to the empirical world? Take the example of a chess board, represented here with black squares in black and red squares in white. We see by looking at the board that the squares of any one color have common boundaries only with squares of the opposite color, but each square has corners in common with other squares of the same color, which are points at which their common boundaries (...)
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  28. added 2014-03-23
    Operationalism as the Philosophy of Soviet Physics: The Philosophical Backgrounds of L. I. Mandelstam and His School.A. A. Pechenkin - 2000 - Synthese 124 (3):407-432.
    This article is dedicated to the philosophy ofscience which was developed by the outstanding Soviet physicist and leader of a powerful scientificcommunity, L. I. Mandelstam. It is shown that thisphilosophy can be summed up under the heading operationalism. A comparison with the paradigmaticoperationalism of Percy Bridgman is undertaken andthe German positivist roots of Mandelstam's philosophyare indicated. The final section reconstructs the principle ofexpedient idealization, the principle which was putforward by Mandelstam's disciples in the spirit of hisoperationalism to solve problems of (...)
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  29. added 2014-03-11
    Operationalism.Hasok Chang - 2010 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  30. added 2014-02-10
    A Definition of Empiricism.A. Cornelius Benjamin - 1954 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 15 (2):171-179.
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  31. added 2013-12-11
    Four Contemporary Interpretations of the Nature of Science.J. O. Wisdom - 1971 - Foundations of Physics 1 (3):269-284.
    Instrumentalism is an approach to science that treats a theory as a tool and only as a tool for computation; it dispenses with the concept of truth.Conventionalism treats a theory as true by convention if it forms a pattern of observations from which correct predictions can be made.Operationalism denies meaning to the concepts of a theory unless they can be defined operationally. It is argued in this paper that truth-value is indispensable to science, because a theory can be rejected only (...)
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  32. added 2011-05-31
    The Tragedy of Operationalism.Mark H. Bickhard - unknown
    Operational definitions were a neo-Machean development that connected with the positivism of Logical Positivism. Logical Positivism failed, with the failure of operational definitions being just one of multiple and multifarious failures of Logical Positivism more broadly. Operationalism, however, has continued to seduce psychology more than half a century after it was repudiated by philosophers of science, including the very Logical Positivists who had first taken it seriously. It carries with it a presupposed metaphysics that is false in virtually all of (...)
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  33. added 2009-11-30
    Operational Definition and Analogy in Physical Theories.Mary Hesse - 1951 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 2 (8):281-294.
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  34. added 2009-11-30
    The Operational Aspect of Meaning.P. W. Bridgman - 1949 - Synthese 8 (1):251 - 259.
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  35. added 2009-11-30
    Operational Analysis as an Instrument for the Critique of Linguistic Signs.Ernest Nagel - 1942 - Journal of Philosophy 39 (7):177-189.
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  36. added 2009-11-30
    Operational Analysis.P. W. Bridgman - 1938 - Philosophy of Science 5 (2):114-131.
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  37. added 2009-11-30
    The Operational Theory of Meaning.A. Cornelius Benjamin - 1937 - Philosophical Review 46 (6):644-649.
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  38. added 2009-11-30
    Some Remarks in Defense of the Operational Theory of Meaning.George Boas & Albert E. Blumberg - 1931 - Journal of Philosophy 28 (20):544-550.
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  39. added 2008-12-31
    Operationalism and Ordinary Language Revisited.Charles Chihara - 1973 - Philosophical Studies 24 (3):137 - 157.
    In "human beings", "studies in the philosophy of wittgenstein" (ed. By p winch), J cook presents a radical solution to the problem of other minds and then suggests that this treatment of the problem is to be found in the writings of wittgenstein. According to cook's interpretation, Wittgenstein's analysis of the problem does not involve in any essential way any special doctrines about criteria, Nor does it commit him to any form of behaviorism. In the course of arguing these theses, (...)
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  40. added 2008-12-31
    Operationalism.D. A. Gillies - 1972 - Synthese 25 (1-2):1 - 24.
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  41. added 2008-12-31
    A Dogma of Operationalism in the Social Sciences.Hugh G. Petrie - 1971 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 1 (1):145-160.
  42. added 2008-12-31
    Operationalism and Ordinary Language.C. S. Chihara & J. A. Fodor - 1967 - In Harold Morick (ed.), Wittgenstein and the Problem of Other Minds. Humanities Press. pp. 35-62.
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  43. added 2008-12-31
    Operationalism and Ordinary Language: A Critique of Wittgenstein.C. Chihara & Jerry A. Fodor - 1965 - American Philosophical Quarterly 2 (4):281-95.
    This paper explores some lines of argument in wittgenstein's post-Tractatus writings in order to indicate the relations between wittgenstein's philosophical psychology, On the one hand, And his philosophy of language, His epistemology, And his doctrines about the nature of philosophical analysis on the other. The authors maintain that the later writings of wittgenstein express a coherent doctrine in which an operationalistic analysis of confirmation and language supports a philosophical psychology of a type the authors call "logical behaviorism." they also maintain (...)
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  44. added 2008-12-31
    The Unholy Alliance of Positivism and Operationalism.A. Cornelius Benjamin - 1942 - Journal of Philosophy 39 (23):617-625.
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  45. added 2008-12-31
    Operationalism: Idealism or Realism?Frank E. Hartung - 1942 - Philosophy of Science 9 (4):350-355.
  46. added 2008-12-31
    Psychology and Operationalism.L. S. Hearnshaw - 1941 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 19 (1):44-57.
  47. added 2008-12-31
    A Critique of Operationalism in Physics.R. B. Lindsay - 1937 - Philosophy of Science 4 (4):456-470.
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