About this topic
Summary A variety of topics are covered under this rubric.  In general, most philosophical questions relating to the language of science are of a broadly semantic nature, having to do with the meaning, meaningfulness or reference of scientific discourse about the world.  The question of the meaningfulness (or cognitive significance) of scientific discourse arose in the context of the logical positivists of the Vienna Circle, who proposed a principle of verification (or verifiability theory of meaning).  The logical empiricist successors of logical positivism sought to analyze the semantic content of theoretical discourse on the basis of the connection between theoretical discourse and observational vocabulary, for example, in terms of correspondence rules.  In the context of the "historical turn" associated with Thomas Kuhn, N.R. Hanson and Paul Feyerabend, the idea of meaning variance (conceptual change) came to the fore, as it was argued that the meaning of observational vocabulary depends upon theoretical context, and undergoes variation in the transition between theories.  The idea of meaning variance gave rise to the semantic version of the claim of the incommensurability of scientific theories.  In response to the problem of meaning variance, a number of authors (e.g. Scheffler, Putnam, Kripke) advocated an emphasis on the reference of scientific terms.  In the attempt to show that reference may survive theoretical change, appeal was often made to the "new" or "causal" theory of reference advocated by Kripke.
Key works Two classic references for logical positivist and empiricist approaches to scientific language are Carnap 1936 and Schlick 1936.  Feyerabend's early argument for meaning variance may be found in Feyerabend 1957.  Putnam discusses the question of meaning change in science, proposing a turn to reference in Putnam 1973.  Michael Devitt deals with topics relating to semantic incommensurability in Devitt 1979.  Thomas Kuhn offers his response to some criticism directed against the claim of incommensurability in Kuhn 1983.
Introductions Sankey 2000
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  1. S. Bangu (2006). Steiner on the Applicability of Mathematics and Naturalism. Philosophia Mathematica 14 (1):26-43.
    Steiner defines naturalism in opposition to anthropocentrism, the doctrine that the human mind holds a privileged place in the universe. He assumes the anthropocentric nature of mathematics and argues that physicists' employment of mathematically guided strategies in the discovery of quantum mechanics challenges scientists' naturalism. In this paper I show that Steiner's assumption about the anthropocentric character of mathematics is questionable. I draw attention to mathematicians' rejection of what Maddy calls ‘definabilism’, a methodological maxim governing the development of mathematics. I (...)
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  2. Sorin Bangu (2012). The Applicability of Mathematics in Science: Indispensability and Ontology. Palgrave-Macmillan.
  3. Sorin Bangu (2009). Wigner's Puzzle for Mathematical Naturalism. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 23 (3):245-263.
    I argue that a recent version of the doctrine of mathematical naturalism faces difficulties arising in connection with Wigner's old puzzle about the applicability of mathematics to natural science. I discuss the strategies to solve the puzzle and I show that they may not be available to the naturalist.
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  4. Sorin Bangu (2008). Reifying Mathematics? Prediction and Symmetry Classification. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 39 (2):239-258.
    In this paper I reconstruct and critically examine the reasoning leading to the famous prediction of the ‘omega minus’ particle by M. Gell-Mann and Y. Ne’eman (in 1962) on the basis of a symmetry classification scheme. While the peculiarity of this prediction has occasionally been noticed in the literature, a detailed treatment of the methodological problems it poses has not been offered yet. By spelling out the characteristics of this type of prediction, I aim to underscore the challenges raised by (...)
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  5. Alan Berger (1989). A Theory of Reference Transmission and Reference Change. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 14 (1):180-198.
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  6. D. Braddon-Mitchell & R. Nola (1997). Ramsification and Glymour's Counterexample. Analysis 57 (3):167-169.
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  7. I. Bernard Cohen (1987). Revolution in Science. Behaviorism 15 (1):83-87.
  8. R. S. Cohen & Marx W. Wartofsky (1983). Language, Logic, and Method.
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  9. Christian Damböck (2012). Theory Structuralism in a Rigid Framework. Synthese 187 (2):693-713.
    This paper develops the first parts of a logical framework for the empirical sciences, by means of a redefinition of theory structuralism as originally developed by Joseph Sneed, Wolfgang Stegmüller, and others, in the context of a ‘rigid’ logic as based on a fixed (therefore rigid) ontology. The paper defends a formal conception of the empirical sciences that has an irreducible ontological basis and is unable, in general, to provide purely structural characterizations of the domain of a theory. The extreme (...)
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  10. Volker Gadenne (1985). Theoretische Begriffe Und Die Prüfbarkeit Von Theorien. Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 16 (1):19-24.
    Summary The non-statement view of scientific theories contains a new conception of theoreticity: A function is „T-theoretical if T must be presupposed for its calculation. On the basis of this conception some philosophers came to the conclusion that scientific theories are not empirically testable because they contain T-theoretical functions. It is claimed that the attempt to test them ends in a circularity: The test of T presupposes T itself.
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  11. Carl F. Graver (2002). Structures of Scientific Theories1. In Peter Machamer Michael Silberstein (ed.), The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Science. Blackwell. pp. 7--55.
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  12. Ulrich M.�Ller & Stephan Pilatus (1982). On Hodgkin and Huxley's Theory of Excitable Membranes. Metamedicine 3 (2):193-208.
    Using Sneed's metatheory an attempt is made to reconstruct Hodgkin and Huxley's theory of excitation of cell membranes. The structure of this theory is uncovered by defining set-theoretical predicates for the partial potential models, potential models, and models of the theory. The function of permeability is said to be the only theoretical function with respect to this theory. The main underlying assumptions of the theory are briefly outlined.
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  13. Michele Marsonet (1993). Is Philosophy of Language Really Important for the Foundation of Scientific Realism? American Philosophical Quarterly 30 (4):283 - 301.
  14. Donald Robert Meyer (1981). Observation, Language, and Theory Choice. Dissertation, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    The dissertation addresses the issue of theory change in science and the role observation plays in determining theory choice. Three views are examined and contrasted: the traditional logical empiricist view, Kuhn's view that theory change is "revolutionary," and Quine's view that theory change is "evolutionary." The issues which separate the three views of theory change focus heavily on the nature of observation sentences and the extent to which they can be said to provide a theory neutral evidential basis for theory (...)
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  15. Jean Moretti (1957). Contemporary Concepts in Science and Philosophy. Philosophy Today 1 (1):59-62.
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  16. Ulrich Müller & Stephan Pilatus (1982). On Hodgkin and Huxley's Theory of Excitable Membranes. Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 3 (2):193-208.
    Using Sneed''s metatheory an attempt is made to reconstruct Hodgkin and Huxley''s theory of excitation of cell membranes. The structure of this theory is uncovered by defining set-theoretical predicates for the partial potential models, potential models, and models of the theory. The function of permeability is said to be the only theoretical function with respect to this theory. The main underlying assumptions of the theory are briefly outlined.
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  17. Nancy Nersessian, Creating Scientific Concepts.
    How do novel scientific concepts arise? In Creating Scientific Concepts, Nancy Nersessian seeks to answer this central but virtually unasked question in the problem of conceptual change. She argues that the popular image of novel concepts and profound insight bursting forth in a blinding flash of inspiration is mistaken. Instead, novel concepts are shown to arise out of the interplay of three factors: an attempt to solve specific problems; the use of conceptual, analytical, and material resources provided by the cognitive-social-cultural (...)
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  18. Ilie Parvu (1996). The Unity of Scientific Knowledge in the Framework of a Typological Approach of Theories. Theoria 11 (3):7-17.
    The paper proposes a typology of the scientific theories based on the modality of mathematizing (relying on the kind of mathematics which participates to the theory edification and the level of mathematical organizing of the theoretical frame). This gives us, like the classification of the geometries from the famous -Erlagen Program- initiated by Felix Klein, an internal principle for the connection of the different forms or levels of the theorizing, a constructive basis for the understanding of the complex structural nets (...)
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  19. J. Stachova (1976). Problems Concerning Relation of Specially Scientific, Generally Scientific and Philosophical Concepts and Categories. Filosoficky Casopis 24 (3):298-308.
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  20. Ping-Kwan Tham & 譚秉鈞, A Critical Examination of the Problem of Theoretical Terms.
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  21. C. van Fraassen Bas (1992). From Vicious Circle to Infinite Regress, and Back Again. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1992:6-29.
    The attempt to formulate a viable empiricist and non-foundationalist epistemology of science faces four problems here confronted. The first is an apparent loss of objectivity in science, in the conditions of use of models in applied science. The second derives from the theory-infection of scientific language, with an apparent loss of objective conditions of truth and reference. The third, often cited as objection to The Scientific Image, is the apparent theory-dependence of the distinction between what is and is not observable. (...)
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  22. Gary R. Weaver (1988). The Limits of Concept Formation in Natural Science. Review of Metaphysics 42 (1):167-168.
  23. Fred Wilson (1971). On Achinstein's Concepts of Science. Philosophy of Science 38 (3):442-452.
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Cognitive Significance in Science
  1. Peter Achinstein (1963). Theoretical Terms and Partial Interpretation. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 14 (54):89-105.
  2. Shane Andre (1966). The Verification Principle: Its Problems and Development. Dissertation, The Claremont Graduate University
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  3. A. J. Ayer (1936). Verification and Experience. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 37:137 - 156.
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  4. Jeffrey Barrett, On the Cognitive Status of Our Best Physical Theories.
    There is good reason to suppose that our best physical theories are false: In addition to its own internal problems, the standard formulation of quantum mechanics is logically incompatible with special relativity. There is also good reason to suppose that we have no concrete idea concerning what it might mean to claim that these theories are approximately or vaguely true. I will argue that providing a concrete understanding the approximate or vague truth of our current physical theories is not a (...)
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  5. I. Berlin (1939). XII.—Verification. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 39 (1):225-248.
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  6. I. Berlin (1938). Verification. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 39:225 - 248.
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  7. Lukas Bielik (2011). Testability and Meaning of Observation Terms and Theoretical Terms. Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu 18 (3):384-397.
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  8. Lukáš Bielik (2011). Testovateľnosť a význam observačných a teoretických termínov. Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu 18 (3):384-397.
    Carnap’s analysis of the language of science had presupposed too close a connection between the semantics and testability. The core problem of the logical empiricist tradition was to show how to provide the interpretation of theoretical terms and hence the explanation of their application to observable entities by means of observation terms. It is argued that the utilization of a much more expressive semantic theory which identifies meanings with hyperintensional entities leads to a clarification of the competencies of semantics and (...)
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  9. Jesús P. Zamora Bonilla (2003). Meaning and Testability in the Structuralist Theory of Science. Erkenntnis 59 (1):47 - 76.
    The connection between scientific knowledge and our empirical access to realityis not well explained within the structuralist approach to scientific theories. I arguethat this is due to the use of a semantics not rich enough from the philosophical pointof view. My proposal is to employ Sellars–Brandom's inferential semantics to understand how can scientific terms have empirical content, and Hintikka's game-theoretical semantics to analyse how can theories be empirically tested. The main conclusions are that scientific concepts gain their meaning through `basic (...)
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  10. Robert Brown & Alonso Church (1950). Amending the Verification Principle. Analysis 11:87.
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  11. Robert Brown & John Watling (1951). Amending the Verification Principle. Analysis 11 (4):87 - 89.
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  12. Rudolf Carnap (1937). Testability and Meaning, 1936. Kwartalnik Filozoficzny 14 (1):55-61.
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  13. Rudolf Carnap (1937). Testability and Meaning--Continued. Philosophy of Science 4 (1):1-40.
  14. Rudolf Carnap (1937). Testability and Meaning (Part 2). Philosophy of Science 4 (4):1-40.
  15. Rudolf Carnap (1936). Testability and Meaning. Philosophy of Science 3 (4):419-471.
  16. Rudolf Carnap (1936). Testability and Meaning (Part 1). Philosophy of Science 3 (4):420-71.
  17. Ramon Cirera (1993). The Logical Analysis of Scientific Language According to Carnap. Grazer Philosophische Studien 45:1-19.
    "Testability and Meaning" is one of Carnap's best-known works. It has been usually seen as one of the main sources of the received view of the philosophy of science, and it is normally read in the hght of the tradition it originated. Nevertheless, this reading detaches the text from the philosophical project to which it belongs. This paper aims to situate Camap's article in its proper philosophical place, which is found in the programme initiated in the Logische Syntax, a programme (...)
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  18. Frederick C. Copleston (1950). A Note on Verification. Mind 59 (236):522-529.
    The author, using bertrand russell's "human knowledge": "it's scope and limits", makes a point of departure where russell distinguishes between "meaning" and "significance." the author contends that in using these distinctions in a metaphysical argument, his purpose is not to show whether or not the argument is possible, but to show the problem of validity of metaphysical arguments as the remaining fundamental problem in regards to metaphysics. (staff).
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  19. Robert Daglish (ed.) (1972). The Scientific and Technological Revolution: Social Effects and Prospects. Moscow: Progress Publishers.
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  20. Alan Donagan (1956). The Verification of Historical Theses. Philosophical Quarterly 6 (24):193-208.
  21. C. J. Ducasse (1936). Verification, Verifiability, and Meaningfulness. Journal of Philosophy 33 (9):230-236.
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  22. C. J. Ducasse (1935). Is Scientific Verification Possible in Philosophy? Philosophy of Science 2 (2):121-127.
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  23. J. L. Evans (1953). On Meaning and Verification. Mind 62 (245):1-19.
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  24. J. N. Findlay (1949). Dr Joad and the Verification Principle. Hibbert Journal 48:120.
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  25. L. Goddard (1980). Significance, Necessity, and Verification. Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 21 (2):193-215.
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  26. Erik Götlind (1954). Ayer on Verification of Negative Statements. Journal of Philosophy 51 (17):490-496.
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  27. Carl G. Hempel (1950). Problems and Changes in the Empiricist Criterion of Meaning. 11 Rev. Intern. De Philos 41 (11):41-63.
    The fundamental tenet of modern empiricism is the view that all non-analytic knowledge is based on experience. Let us call this thesis the principle of empiricism. [1] Contemporary logical empiricism has added [2] to it the maxim that a sentence makes a cognitively meaningful assertion, and thus can be said to be either true or false, only if it is either (1) analytic or self-contradictory or (2) capable, at least in principle, of experiential test. According to this so-called empiricist criterion (...)
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