About this topic
Summary The idea of a Ramsey sentence derives from a proposal of Frank Plumpton Ramsey (1903-1930).  Ramsey proposed that theoretical terms may be eliminated from a theory by means of an existentially quantified sentence containing only observational terms.  Such a Ramsey sentence retains the empirical content of the theory without the use of theoretical terms.  The idea was later developed in the context of logical empiricism, for example by C.G. Hempel.  David Lewis employed Ramsey sentences in his account of theoretical terms.  Lewis's account has significant application in the philosophy of mind.  Ramsey sentences play an important role in the literature on the reference of theoretical terms, as well as in discussion of the position of structural realism.
Key works Ramsey's original proposal may be found in his paper, 'Theories', in D. H. Mellor (ed.) F.P. Ramsey Philosophical Papers Ramsey 1990.  For Hempel, see 'The Theoretician's Dilemma' Hempel 1958.  Lewis presents his version of the Ramsey sentence approach in his paper, 'How to Define Theoretical Terms' Lewis 1970.  Refined Ramsey-style approaches continue to play a role in the discussion of theoretical terms.  See, for example, David Papineau 'Theory-dependent Terms' Papineau 1996.  For the connection with structural realism, see Cruse 2005.
Introductions Bohnert 1967; and chapter three of Psillos 1999
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  1. Newman's Objection.Peter M. Ainsworth - 2009 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (1):135-171.
    This paper is a review of work on Newman's objection to epistemic structural realism (ESR). In Section 2, a brief statement of ESR is provided. In Section 3, Newman's objection and its recent variants are outlined. In Section 4, two responses that argue that the objection can be evaded by abandoning the Ramsey-sentence approach to ESR are considered. In Section 5, three responses that have been put forward specifically to rescue the Ramsey-sentence approach to ESR from the modern versions of (...)
  2. Ramsifying Virtue Theory.Mark Alfano - 2015 - In Current Controversies in Virtue Theory. Routledge. pp. 123-35.
    In his contribution, Mark Alfano lays out a new (to virtue theory) naturalistic way of determining what the virtues are, what it would take for them to be realized, and what it would take for them to be at least possible. This method is derived in large part from David Lewis’s development of Frank Ramsey’s method of implicit definition. The basic idea is to define a set of terms not individually but in tandem. This is accomplished by assembling all and (...)
  3. A Modal View of the Semantics of Theoretical Sentences.Holger Andreas - 2010 - Synthese 174 (3):367 - 383.
    Modal logic has been applied in many different areas, as reasoning about time, knowledge and belief, necessity and possibility, to mention only some examples. In the present paper, an attempt is made to use modal logic to account for the semantics of theoretical sentences in scientific language. Theoretical sentences have been studied extensively since the work of Ramsey and Carnap. The present attempt at a modal analysis is motivated by there being several intended interpretations of the theoretical terms once these (...)
  4. An Empiricist Criterion of Meaning.Yann Benétreau-Dupin - 2011 - South African Journal of Philosophy 30 (2):95-108.
    The meaning of scientific propositions is not always expressible in terms of observable phenomena. Such propositions involve generalizations, and also terms that are theoretical constructs. I study here how to assess the meaning of scientific propositions, that is, the specific import of theoretical terms. Empiricists have expressed a concern that scientific propositions, and theoretical terms, should always be, to some degree, related to observable consequences. We can see that the former empiricist criterion of meaning only implies for theoretical terms not (...)
  5. The Logico-Linguistic Mind-Brain Problem and a Proposed Step Towards its Solution.Herbert G. Bohnert - 1974 - Philosophy of Science 41 (1):1-14.
    This paper argues that if a person's beliefs are idealized as a set of sentences (theoretical, observational, and mixed) then the device of Ramsey sentences provides a treatment, of the mind-brain problem, that has at least four noteworthy characteristics. First, sentences asserting correlations between one's own brain state and one's own "private" experiences are, on such treatment, reconstrued as neither causal, coreferential, nor as meaning postulates, but as clauses in an overall hypothesis (Ramsey sentence) whose only nonlogical constants have "private" (...)
  6. Communication by Ramsey-Sentence Clause.Herbert G. Bohnert - 1967 - Philosophy of Science 34 (4):341-347.
    F. P. Ramsey pointed out in Theories that the observational content of a theory expressed partly in non-observational terms is retained in the sentence resulting from existentially generalizing the conjunction of all sentences of the theory with respect to all nonobservational terms. Such terms are thus avoidable in principle, but only at the cost of forming a single "monolithic" sentence. This paper suggests that communication may be thought of as occurring not only by sentence but by clause, a sentential formula (...)
  7. Ramsification and Glymour’s Counterexample.David Braddon-Mitchell & Robert Nola - 1997 - Analysis 57 (3):167–169.
  8. Looking for Structure in All the Wrong Places: Ramsey Sentences, Multiple Realisability, and Structure.Angelo Cei & Steven French - 2006 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 37 (4):633-655.
    ‘Epistemic structural realism’ (ESR) insists that all that we know of the world is its structure, and that the ‘nature’ of the underlying elements remains hidden. With structure represented via Ramsey sentences, the question arises as to how ‘hidden natures’ might also be represented. If the Ramsey sentence describes a class of realisers for the relevant theory, one way of answering this question is through the notion of multiple realisability. We explore this answer in the context of the work of (...)
  9. Russell and the Newman Problem Revisited.Marc Champagne - 2012 - Analysis and Metaphysics 11:65 - 74.
    In his 1927 Analysis of Matter and elsewhere, Russell argued that we can successfully infer the structure of the external world from that of our explanatory schemes. While nothing guarantees that the intrinsic qualities of experiences are shared by their objects, he held that the relations tying together those relata perforce mirror relations that actually obtain (these being expressible in the formal idiom of the Principia Mathematica). This claim was subsequently criticized by the Cambridge mathematician Max Newman as true but (...)
  10. Pragmatism and Radical Empiricism.Wesley Cooper - 1999 - Inquiry : An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 42 (3 & 4):371 – 383.
    A rational reconstruction of James's doctrine of pure experience is attempted, showing how it can be formulated in terms of a Ramsey sentence so that its credibility is comparable to contemporary functionalism about the mind. Whereas functionalism treats only mental predicates as theoretical terms and quantifies over physical objects, Jamesian 'global-functionalism' treats both mental and physical predicates as theoretical terms and quantifies over pure experience. Rehabilitated in this way, the doctrine of pure experience is a fit partner for Jamesian pragmatism. (...)
  11. Craig's Theorem, Ramsey-Sentences, and Scientific Instrumentalism.James W. Cornman - 1972 - Synthese 25 (1-2):82 - 128.
  12. Analyticity in the Theoretical Language: Is a Different Account Really Necessary?Richard Creath - 2012 - In R. Creath (ed.), Vienna Circle Institute Yearbook. Springer Verlag. pp. 57--66.
    Recent essays by Michael Friedman1 and William Demopoulos2 on Carnap’s late approach to analyticity in the theoretical language make a convincing case for the continuing philosophic interest of this part of Carnap’s work. The present essay is intended not to disagree with any of these essays but to raise a logically prior worry as to whether Carnap’s account of analyticity here is well motivated and consistent with other attractive aspects of his view. To do this I outline, in §1, Frank (...)
  13. Empiricism and Ramsey's Account of Theories.P. Cruse - 2005 - In Hallvard Lillehammer & D. H. Mellor (eds.), Ramsey's Legacy. Oxford University Press. pp. 105--122.
  14. Ramsey Sentences, Structural Realism and Trivial Realization.Pierre Cruse - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 36 (3):557-576.
    Several recent authors identify structural realism about scientific theories with the claim that the content of a scientific theory is expressible using its Ramsey sentence. Many of these authors have also argued that so understood, the view collapses into empiricist anti-realism, since an argument originally proposed by Max Newman in a review of Bertrand Russell’s The analysis of matter demonstrates that Ramsey sentences are trivially satisfied, and cannot make any significant claims about unobservables. In this paper I argue against both (...)
  15. Scientific Realism, Ramsey Sentences and the Reference of Theoretical Terms.Pierre Cruse - 2004 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 18 (2 & 3):133 – 149.
    It is often thought that questions of reference are crucial in assessing scientific realism, construed as the view that successful theories are at least approximately true descriptions of the unobservable; realism is justified only if terms in empirically successful theories generally refer to genuinely existing entities or properties. In this paper this view is questioned. First, it is argued that there are good reasons to think that questions of realism are largely decided by convention and carry no epistemic significance. An (...)
  16. Three Views of Theoretical Knowledge.W. Demopoulos - 2011 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 62 (1):177-205.
    Of the three views of theoretical knowledge which form the focus of this article, the first has its source in the work of Russell, the second in Ramsey, and the third in Carnap. Although very different, all three views subscribe to a principle I formulate as ‘the structuralist thesis’; they are also naturally expressed using the concept of a Ramsey sentence. I distinguish the framework of assumptions which give rise to the structuralist thesis from an unproblematic emphasis on the importance (...)
  17. Some Remarks on the Bearing of Model Theory on the Theory of Theories.William Demopoulos - 2008 - Synthese 164 (3):359 - 383.
    The present paper offers some remarks on the significance of first order model theory for our understanding of theories, and more generally, for our understanding of the “structuralist” accounts of the nature of theoretical knowledge that we associate with Russell, Ramsey and Carnap. What is unique about the presentation is the prominence it assigns to Craig’s Interpolation Lemma, some of its corollaries, and the manner of their demonstration. They form the underlying logical basis of the analysis.
  18. On the Rational Reconstruction of Our Theoretical Knowledge.William Demopoulos - 2003 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 54 (3):371-403.
    This paper concerns the rational reconstruction of physical theories initially advanced by F. P. Ramsey and later elaborated by Rudolf Carnap. The Carnap–Ramsey reconstruction of theoretical knowledge is a natural development of classical empiricist ideas, one that is informed by Russell's philosophical logic and his theories of propositional understanding and knowledge of matter ; as such, it is not merely a schematic representation of the notion of an empirical theory, but the backbone of a general account of our knowledge of (...)
  19. Carnap's Definition of 'Analytic Truth' for Scientific Theories.J. K. Derden Jr - 1976 - Philosophy of Science 43 (4):506-522.
    In this paper Rudolf Carnap's definition of 'analytic truth' based upon a meaning postulate At, for theoretical predicates of a given scientific theory is subjected to critique. It is argued that this definition is both too exclusive and too inclusive. Assuming that the preceding is correct, At is subjected to further scrutiny to determine how to interpret it and whether, and under what conditions, it need even be true. It is argued that a given At need not be true as (...)
  20. Ramseyfication and Structural Realism.Elie G. Zahar - 2004 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 19 (49):5-30.
    Structural Realism (SSR), as embodied in the Ramsey-sentence H of a theory H, is defended against the view that H reduces to a trivial statement about the cardinally of the domain of H, a view which arises from ignoring the central role of observation within science. Putnam's theses are examined and shown to support rather than undermine SSR. Finally: in view of its synthetic character, applied mathematics must enter into the formulation of H and hence to be shown axiomatisable; this (...)
  21. Underdetermination: Craig and Ramsey.Jane English - 1973 - Journal of Philosophy 70 (14):453-462.
  22. Carnap on Theoretical Terms: Structuralism Without Metaphysics. [REVIEW]Michael Friedman - 2011 - Synthese 180 (2):249 - 263.
    Both realists and instrumentalists have found it difficult to understand (much less accept) Carnap's developed view on theoretical terms, which attempts to stake out a neutral position between realism and instrumentalism. I argue that Carnap's mature conception of a scientific theory as the conjunction of its Ramsey sentence and Carnap sentence can indeed achieve this neutral position. To see this, however, we need to see why the Newman problem raised in the context of recent work on structural realism is no (...)
  23. Wissenschaftslogik : The Role of Logic in the Philosophy of Science.Michael Friedman - 2008 - Synthese 164 (3):385 - 400.
    Carl Hempel introduced what he called "Craig's theorem" into the philosophy of science in a famous discussion of the "problem of theoretical terms." Beginning with Hempel's use of 'Craig's theorem," I shall bring out some of the key differences between Hempel's treatment of the "problem of theoretical terms" and Carnap's in order to illuminate the peculiar function of Wissenschaftslogik in Carnap's mature philosophy. Carnap's treatment, in particular, is fundamentally antimetaphysical—he aims to use the tools of mathematical logic to dissolve rather (...)
  24. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Structural Realism but Were Afraid to Ask.Roman Frigg & Ioannis Votsis - 2011 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 1 (2):227-276.
    Everything you always wanted to know about structural realism but were afraid to ask Content Type Journal Article Pages 227-276 DOI 10.1007/s13194-011-0025-7 Authors Roman Frigg, Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method, London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London, WC2A 2AE UK Ioannis Votsis, Philosophisches Institut, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, Universitätsstraße 1, Geb. 23.21/04.86, 40225 Düsseldorf, Germany Journal European Journal for Philosophy of Science Online ISSN 1879-4920 Print ISSN 1879-4912 Journal Volume Volume 1 Journal Issue Volume 1, Number 2.
  25. Holism, Underdetermination, and the Dynamics of Empirical Theories.Ulrich Gähde - 2002 - Synthese 130 (1):69 - 90.
    The goal of this article is to show that the structuralist approachprovides a powerful framework for the analysis of certain holistic phenomena in empirical theories.We focus on two aspects of holism. The first refers to the involvement of comprehensive complexes of hypothesesin the theoretical treatment of systems regarded in isolation. By contrast, the second refers to thecorrelation between the theoretical descriptions of different systems. It is demonstrated how these two aspectscan be analysed by making use of the structuralist notion of (...)
  26. Ramsey Sentences for Infinite Theories.Herbert E. Hendry - 1975 - Philosophy of Science 42 (1):28.
  27. Ramsey Sentences and the Meaning of Quantifiers.Jaakko Hintikka - 1998 - Philosophy of Science 65 (2):289-305.
  28. Ramsey Sentences and Avoiding the Sui Generis.Frank Jackson - 2005 - In Hallvard Lillehammer & D.H. Mellor (eds.), Ramsey's Legacy (Mind Association Occasional Series). Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  29. Empirical Adequacy and Ramsification, II.Jeffrey Ketland - 2009 - In Hieke Alexander & Leitgeb Hannes (eds.), Reduction, Abstraction, Analysis. Ontos Verlag. pp. 29--45.
  30. Empirical Adequacy and Ramsification.Jeffrey Ketland - 2004 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 55 (2):287-300.
    Structural realism has been proposed as an epistemological position interpolating between realism and sceptical anti-realism about scientific theories. The structural realist who accepts a scientific theory thinks that is empirically correct, and furthermore is a realist about the ‘structural content’ of . But what exactly is ‘structural content’? One proposal is that the ‘structural content’ of a scientific theory may be associated with its Ramsey sentence (). However, Demopoulos and Friedman have argued, using ideas drawn from Newman's earlier criticism of (...)
  31. The Representational Inadequacy of Ramsey Sentences.Arnold Koslow - 2006 - Theoria 72 (2):100-125.
  32. The Character of Cognitive Phenomenology.Uriah Kriegel - forthcoming - In T. Breyer & C. Gutland (eds.), Phenomenology of Thinking. Routledge.
    Recent discussions of phenomenal consciousness have taken increased interest in the existence and scope of non-sensory types of phenomenology, notably so-called cognitive phenomenology. These discussions have been largely restricted, however, to the question of the existence of such a phenomenology. Little attention has been given to the character of cognitive phenomenology: what in fact is it like to engage in conscious cognitive activity? This paper offers an approach to this question. Focusing on the prototypical cognitive activity of making a judgment (...)
  33. Structural Realism.James Ladyman - 2014 - In Edward N. Zalta (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Structural realism is considered by many realists and antirealists alike as the most defensible form of scientific realism. There are now many forms of structural realism and an extensive literature about them. There are interesting connections with debates in metaphysics, philosophy of physics and philosophy of mathematics. This entry is intended to be a comprehensive survey of the field.
  34. Ramseyan Humility.David Lewis - 2009 - In David Braddon-Mitchell & Robert Nola (eds.), Conceptual Analysis and Philosophical Naturalism. MIT Press. pp. 203-222.
  35. Psychophysical and Theoretical Identifications.David Lewis - 1972 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 50 (3):249-258.
  36. How to Define Theoretical Terms.David Lewis - 1970 - Journal of Philosophy 67 (13):427-446.
  37. Ramsey's Legacy.Lillehammer Hallvard & D. H. Mellor (eds.) - 2005 - Oxford University Press.
    The Cambridge philosopher Frank Ramsey died tragically in 1930 at the age of 26, but had already established himself as one of the most brilliant minds of the twentieth century. Besides groundbreaking work in philosophy, particularly in logic, language, and metaphysics, he created modern decision theory and made substantial contributions to mathematics and economics. In these original essays, written to commemorate the centenary of Ramsey's birth, a distinguished international team of contributors offer fresh perspectives on his work and show its (...)
  38. Criteria of Empirical Significance: A Success Story.Sebastian Lutz - manuscript
    The sheer multitude of criteria of empirical significance has been taken as evidence that the pre-analytic notion being explicated is too vague to be useful. I show instead that a significant number of these criteria—by Ayer, Popper, Przełęcki, Suppes, and David Lewis, among others—not only form a coherent whole, but also connect directly to the theory of definition, the notion of empirical content as explicated by Ramsey sentences, and the theory of measurement; two criteria by Carnap and Sober are trivial, (...)
  39. Choosing the Analytic Component of Theories.Sebastian Lutz - manuscript
    I provide a compact reformulation of Carnap’s conditions of adequacy for the analytic and the synthetic component of a theory and show that, contrary to arguments by Winnie and Demopoulos, Carnap’s conditions of adequacy need not be supplemented by another condition. This has immediate implications for the analytic component of reduction sentences.
  40. Newman’s Objection is Dead; Long Live Newman’s Objection!Sebastian Lutz - manuscript
    There are two ways of reading Newman’s objection to Russell’s structuralism. One assumes that according to Russell, our knowledge of a theory about the external world is captured by an existential generalization on all non-logical symbols of the theory. Under this reading, our knowledge amounts to a cardinality claim. Another reading assumes that our knowledge singles out a structure in Russell’s (and Newman’s) sense: a model theoretic structure that is determined up to isomorphism. Under this reading, our knowledge is far (...)
  41. Partial Model Theory as Model Theory.Sebastian Lutz - 2015 - Ergo, an Open Access Journal of Philosophy 2.
    I show that the partial truth of a sentence in a partial structure is equivalent to the truth of that sentence in an expansion of a structure that corresponds naturally to the partial structure. Further, a mapping is a partial homomorphism/partial isomorphism between two partial structures if and only if it is a homomorphism/isomorphism between their corresponding structures. It is a corollary that the partial truth of a sentence in a partial structure is equivalent to the truth of a specific (...)
  42. The Semantics of Scientific Theories.Sebastian Lutz - 2014 - In Anna Brożek & Jacek Jadacki (eds.), Księga pamiątkowa Marianowi Przełęckiemu w darze na 90-lecie urodzin. pp. 33-67.
    Marian Przełęcki’s semantics for the Received View is a good explication of Carnap’s position on the subject, anticipates many discussions and results from both proponents and opponents of the Received View, and can be the basis for a thriving research program.
  43. Ramsey's Theory of Truth and the Truth of Theories: A Synthesis of Pragmatism and Intuitionism in Ramsey's Last Philosophy.Ulrich Majer - 1991 - Theoria 57 (3):162-195.
  44. On Theoretical Constructs and Ramsey Constants.R. M. Martin - 1966 - Philosophy of Science 33 (1/2):1-13.
    The method of Ramsey sentences has been proposed for handling theoretical constructs within a scientific system. Essentially it consists of constructing a certain "monolithic" sentence for an entire theory. In this present paper several improvements are suggested which help to overcome some of the awkward features of the method. In particular we have here many Ramsey sentences rather than just one, each erstwhile primitive theoretical term giving rise to a Ramsey sentence. Such a sentence in effect defines what we call (...)
  45. Functionalism and Self-Consciousness.Mark McCullagh - 2000 - Mind and Language 15 (5):481-499.
    I offer a philosophically well-motivated solution to a problem that George Bealer has identified, which he claims is fatal to functionalism. The problem is that there seems to be no way to generate a satisfactory Ramsey sentence of a psychological theory in which mental-state predicates occur within the scopes of mental-state predicates. My central claim is that the functional roles in terms of which a creature capable of self-consciousness identifies her own mental states must be roles that items could play (...)
  46. FP Ramsey.D. H. Mellor - 1995 - Philosophy 70 (2):243-262.
  47. Ramsey Sentence Realism as an Answer to the Pessimistic Meta-Induction.Mark Newman - 2005 - Philosophy of Science 72 (5):1373-1384.
    John Worrall recently provided an account of epistemic structural realism, which explains the success of science by arguing for the correct mathematical structure of our theories. He accounts for the historical failures of science by pointing to bloated ontological interpretations of theoretical terms. In this paper I argue that Worrall’s account suffers from five serious problems. I also show that Pierre Cruse and David Papineau have developed a rival structural realism that solves all of the problems faced by Worrall. This (...)
  48. A Corrective to the Ramsey-Lewis Account of Theoretical Terms.John O'Leary-Hawthorne - 1994 - Analysis 54 (2):105 - 110.
  49. Realism, Ramsey Sentences and the Pessimistic Meta-Induction.David Papineau - 2010 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 41 (4):375-385.
    This paper defends scientific realism from the pessimistic meta-induction from past reference failure. It allows that a descriptive theory of reference implies that scientific terms characteristically fail of determinate reference. But it argues that a descriptive theory of reference also implies an equivalence between scientific theories and quantificational claims in the style of Ramsey. Since these quantificational claims do not use any of the referentially suspect scientific terms, they can be approximately true even when those terms fail to refer determinately.Keywords: (...)
  50. Theory-Dependent Terms.David Papineau - 1996 - Philosophy of Science 63 (1):1-20.
    The main puzzle about theoretical definitions is that nothing seems to decide which assumptions contribute to such definitions and which do not. I argue that theoretical definitions are indeed imprecise, but that this does not normally matter, since the definitional imprecision does not normally produce indeterminacy of referential value. Sometimes, however, the definitional imprecision is less benign, and does generate referential indeterminacy. In these special cases, but not otherwise, it is necessary to refine the term's definition.
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