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 1958.  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. Indexical Truth and Antimetaphysical Inclinations. Getting Rid of the Remnants of Realism.T. Raja Rosenhagen - 2006 - In Christian Suhm & Andreas Berg-Hildebrandt (ed.), Bas van Fraassen. The Fortunes of Empiricism. Frankfurt, Germany: pp. 81-92.
    In this paper a close look is taken at van Fraassen's use of the concept of truth. It is shown that the rather deflationist understanding of the term in his more recent publications differs considerably from the one referred to in his earlier writings, where the truth of a scientific theory is construed as its correspondence to the world. As will be argued, his more recent remarks call for a reevaluation of the difference between scientific realism and constructive empiricism and (...)
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  2. How to Fight Linguistic Injustice in Science: Equity Measures and Mitigating Agents.Aleksandra Vučković & Vlasta Sikimić - 2022 - Social Epistemology:1-17.
    Though a common language of science allows for easier communication of the results among researchers, the use of lingua franca also comes with the cost of losing some of the diverse ideas and results arising from the plurality of languages. Following Quine’s famous thesis about the indeterminacy of translation, we elaborate on the inherent loss of diverse ideas when only one language of science is used. Non-native speakers sometimes experience epistemic injustice due to their language proficiency and consequently, their scientific (...)
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  3. Explaining Ambiguity in Scientific Language.Beckett Sterner - 2022 - Synthese 200 (5):1-27.
    The idea that ambiguity can be productive in data science remains controversial. Efforts to make scientific publications and data intelligible to computers generally assume that accommodating multiple meanings for words, known as polysemy, undermines reasoning and communication. This assumption has nonetheless been contested by historians, philosophers, and social scientists, who have applied qualitative research methods to demonstrate the generative and strategic value of polysemy. Recent quantitative results from linguistics have also shown how polysemy can actually improve the efficiency of human (...)
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  4. Scientists Are Epistemic Consequentialists About Imagination.Michael T. Stuart - forthcoming - Philosophy of Science:1-22.
    Scientists imagine for epistemic reasons, and these imaginings can be better or worse. But what does it mean for an imagining to be epistemically better or worse? There are at least three metaepistemological frameworks that present different answers to this question: epistemological consequentialism, deontic epistemology, and virtue epistemology. This paper presents empirical evidence that scientists adopt each of these different epistemic frameworks with respect to imagination, but argues that the way they do this is best explained if scientists are fundamentally (...)
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  5. 9 Temporal Knowledge Arguments and a Note on Presentism 2 17 2022.Paul Merriam - manuscript
  6. Toward a Philosophy of Scientific Discovery.Jan G. Michel - 2022 - In Making Scientific Discoveries: Interdisciplinary Reflections. Paderborn, Deutschland: pp. 9-53.
    Jan G. Michel argues that we need a philosophy of scientific discovery. Before turning to the question of what such a philosophy might look like, he addresses two questions: Don’t we have a philosophy of scientific discovery yet? And do we need one at all? To answer the first question, he takes a closer look at history and finds that we have not had a systematic philosophy of scientific discovery worthy of the name for over 150 years. To answer the (...)
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  7. Making Scientific Discoveries: Interdisciplinary Reflections.Jan G. Michel (ed.) - 2021 - Paderborn, Deutschland: Brill/mentis.
    Scientific progress depends crucially on scientific discoveries. Yet the topic of scientific discoveries has not been central to debate in the philosophy of science. This book aims to remedy this shortcoming. Based on a broad reading of the term “science” (similar to the German term “Wissenschaft”), the book convenes experts from different disciplines who reflect upon several intertwined questions connected to the topic of making scientific discoveries. -/- Among these questions are the following: What are the preconditions for making scientific (...)
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  8. The Limits of Causality.Louis Caruana - 2020 - In A. Balsas & B. Nobre (eds.), The Insides of Nature: Causality and Conceptions of Nature. Braga: Axioma – Publicacoes da Faculdade de Filosofia. pp. 31-54.
    For decades, much literature on causality has focused on causal processes and causal reasoning in the natural sciences. According to a relatively new trend however, such research on causality remains insufficient because of its refusal to accept a certain degree of pluralism within the concept, a pluralism that is evident in how we use ideas of cause and effect in everyday life. I will build on work in this latter trend, following philosophers like G. E. M. Anscombe and N. Cartwright. (...)
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  9. Reduction, Intuition, and Cognitive Effort in Scientific Language.Miguel López-Astorga - 2021 - Logos and Episteme 12 (4):389-401.
    In his search for a better scientific language, Carnap offered a number of definitions, ideas, and arguments. This paper is devoted to one of his definitions in this regard. In particular, it addresses a definition providing rules to add new properties to the descriptions of objects or beings by taking into account other properties of those very objects or beings that are already known. The main point that this paper tries to make is that, if a current cognitive theory such (...)
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  10. A Logical Theory of Causality.Alexander Bochman - 2021 - Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.
    "The first book that provides a systematic and rigorous logical theory of causality"--.
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  11. Thomas Kuhn’s Philosophy of Language.Paulo Pirozelli - 2020 - Trans/Form/Ação 43 (spe):345-372.
    Thomas Kuhn is mostly known for his contributions to the philosophy of science. However, it was chiefly to investigations in philosophy of language that he dedicated the last part of his career. The aim of this paper is to present a systematic view of Kuhn’s main ideas on this subject. I start by describing his theory of concept, in particular what he says about kind terms. Such terms, acquired in blocks that form contrast sets or “taxonomies,” are learned through ostensible (...)
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  12. Ageing and the Goal of Evolution.Justin Garson - 2021 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 43 (1):1-16.
    There is a certain metaphor that has enjoyed tremendous longevity in the evolution of ageing literature. According to this metaphor, nature has a certain goal or purpose, the perpetuation of the species, or, alternatively, the reproductive success of the individual. In relation to this goal, the individual organism has a function, job, or task, namely, to breed and, in some species, to raise its brood to maturity. On this picture, those who cannot, or can no longer, reproduce are somehow invisible (...)
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  13. On Cognition and the Tension of Live Metaphors.Patrick Bloniasz - 2020 - Meta: Research in Hermeneutics, Phenomenology, and Practical Philosophy 7 (2):499-516.
    ‘Live’, or novel, metaphors continue to occupy an interesting space in both the philosophical and cognitive sphere. One metaphorical theory, offered by French philosopher Paul Ricœur, is thoroughly fleshed out in relation to other dominant linguistic accounts of metaphor. Ricœur’s theory is underrepresented in much of contemporary neurolinguistic literature even though it bears great resemblance to many features of modern theories in cognitive science; as such, the current article attempts to establish a clear connection between Ricœur’s work and the cognitive (...)
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  14. Lob der Vermutung (In praise of conjectures).Emanuel Viebahn - forthcoming - In Romy Jaster & Geert Keil (eds.), Nachdenken über Corona. Stuttgart, Germany:
    Krisen, heißt es manchmal, erfordern klare Ansagen: Bei Behauptungen wissen wir, woran wir sind. Vermutungen hingegen sind unklar und stehen der Übernahme von Ver­ant­wor­tung entgegen. In diesem Essay wird mit den Mitteln der Sprachphilosophie ge­zeigt, dass vermutende Sprechakte für die Krisenkommunikation in der Corona-Pandemie richtig und wichtig sind. Weder sind Vermutungen anfälliger für Unklarheit als andere Sprechakte noch sind sie besser dazu geeignet, Verantwortung abzuweisen. Im Gegen­teil: In einer Situation, die durch Unsicherheit geprägt ist, sind Vermutungen besonders wertvoll für das (...)
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  15. The Last Viennese Polymath: Jordi Cat & Adam Tamas Tuboly (Eds.): Neurath Reconsidered: New Sources and Perspectives. Cham: Springer, 2019, Xiii + 707 Pp, 92.29 €. [REVIEW]Tomáš Hříbek - 2020 - Metascience 29 (3):385-390.
    A review of Jordy Cat & Adam Tamás Tuboly (eds.), Neurath Reconsidered: New Sources and Perspectives (Springer 2019).
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  16. Recenzja "Filozofii w nowym wieku" (Philosophy in a New Century) autor John Searle (2008) (przegląd poprawiony 2019). [REVIEW]Michael Richard Starks - 2020 - Witamy Do Piekła Na Ziemi - Dzieci, Zmiany Klimatu, Bitcoiny, Kartele, Chiny, Demokracja, Różnorodność, Dysgenika, Równość, Hakerzy, Prawa Człowieka, Islam, Liberalizm, Dobrobyt, Sieć, Chaos, Głód, Choroby, Przemoc, Sztuczna Inteligencja, Wojna.
    Przed skomentowaniem książki, oferuję uwagi na temat Wittgenstein i Searle i logicznej struktury racjonalności. Eseje tutaj są w większości już opublikowane w ciągu ostatniej dekady (choć niektóre zostały zaktualizowane), wraz z jednym niepublikowanym elementem, i nic tutaj nie będzie zaskoczeniem dla tych, którzy nadążyli za jego pracą. Podobnie jak W, jest uważany za najlepszego filozofa standupu swoich czasów, a jego twórczość pisemna jest solidna jak skała i przełomowa w całym. Jednak jego brak podjęcia później W wystarczająco poważnie prowadzi do pewnych (...)
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  17. Classification, Kinds, Taxonomic Stability, and Conceptual Change.Jaipreet Mattu & Jacqueline Anne Sullivan - forthcoming - Aggression and Violent Behavior.
    Scientists represent their world, grouping and organizing phenomena into classes by means of concepts. Philosophers of science have historically been interested in the nature of these concepts, the criteria that inform their application and the nature of the kinds that the concepts individuate. They also have sought to understand whether and how different systems of classification are related and more recently, how investigative practices shape conceptual development and change. Our aim in this paper is to provide a critical overview of (...)
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  18. Métascience: Pour un discours général scientifique.François Maurice - 2020 - Mεtascience: Discours Général Scientifique 1:31-77.
    L’humain produit des discours sur le monde : mythologies, religions, mysticismes, philosophies, science. La majorité de ses discours sont de nature transcendante. À la suite d’un clarification conceptuelle fondée sur les notions de réflexion et de discours général, la philosophie apparaît comme un dis- cours général transcendant parmi d’autres ; d’où l’échec de celle-ci à rendre compte du monde et de la science ; d’où la nécessité de disposer d’un discours général non transcendant, un discours général proprement scientifique, une métascience. (...)
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  19. Causal Reasoning About Genetics: Synthesis and Future Directions.Kate E. Lynch, Ilan Dar Nimrod, Paul Edmund Griffiths & James Morandini - 2019 - Behavior Genetics 2 (49):221-234.
    When explaining the causes of human behavior, genes are often given a special status. They are thought to relate to an intrinsic human 'essence', and essentialist biases have been shown to skew the way in which causation is assessed. Causal reasoning in general is subject to other pre-existing biases, including beliefs about normativity and morality. In this synthesis we show how factors which influence causal reasoning can be mapped to a framework of genetic essentialism, which reveals both the shared and (...)
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  20. Beginner's Guide to the History of Science.Sean F. Johnston - 2009 - Oxford: Simon & Schuster / OneWorld.
    Weaving together intellectual history, philosophy, and social studies, Sean Johnston offers a unique appraisal of the history of science and the nature of this evolving discipline. Science is all-encompassing and new developments are usually mired in controversy; nevertheless, it is a driving force of the modern world. Based on its past, where might it lead us in the twenty-first century?
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  21. Obscurum Per Obscurium. Language and Science in the Sokal Affair.Sonia Madrid Cánovas - 2008 - Arbor 184 (731).
  22. Conceptual and Mathematical Structures of Mechanical Science in the Western Civilization Around 18th Century.Raffaele Pisano & Danilo Capecchi - 2013 - Almagest 4 (2):86-21.
    One may discuss the role played by mechanical science in the history of scientific ideas, particularly in physics, focusing on the significance of the relationship between physics and mathematics in describing mathematical laws in the context of a scientific theory. In the second Newtonian law of motion, space and time are crucial physical magnitudes in mechanics, but they are also mathematical magnitudes as involved in derivative operations. Above all, if we fail to acknowledge their mathematical meaning, we fail to comprehend (...)
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  23. Translating Textbooks: Russian, German, and the Language of Chemistry.Michael Gordin - 2012 - Isis 103:88-98.
    Using the cases of three Russian chemistry textbooks from the 1860s—authored by Freidrich Beilstein, A. M. Butlerov, and D. I. Mendeleev—this essay analyzes their contemporary translation into German and the implications of their divergent histories for scholars' understanding of the processes of credit accrual and the choices of languages of science.
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  24. Forms of Mathematization (14th -17th Centuries).Sophie Roux - 2010 - Early Science and Medicine 15 (4-5):319-337.
    According to a grand narrative that long ago ceased to be told, there was a seventeenth century Scientific Revolution, during which a few heroes conquered nature thanks to mathematics. This grand narrative began with the exhibition of quantitative laws that these heroes, Galileo and Newton for example, had disclosed: the law of falling bodies, according to which the speed of a falling body is proportional to the square of the time that has elapsed since the beginning of its fall; the (...)
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  25. Ontological Induction and the Logical Typology of Scientific Variables.William W. Rozeboom - 1961 - Philosophy of Science 28 (4):337-377.
    It is widely agreed among philosophers of science today that no formal pattern can possibly be found in the origins of scientific theory. There is no such thing as a "logic of discovery," insists this view--a scientific hypothesis is susceptible to methodological critique only in its relation to empirical consequences derived after the hypothesis itself has emerged through a spontaneous creative inspiration. Yet confronted with the tautly directed thrust of theory-building as actually practiced at the cutting edge of scientific research, (...)
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  26. Some Remarks on Problems and Methods in the Philosophy of Science.Patrick Suppes - 1954 - Philosophy of Science 21 (3):242-248.
    Suppes skizziert das Programm des semantic turns: keine Sätze mehr, sondern Modelle sollen die Analysegrundlage wissenschaftlicher Theorien sein, Ziel ist die Axiomatisierung von Theorien.
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Cognitive Significance in Science
  1. Methodology Maximized: Quine on Empiricism, Naturalism, and Empirical Content.James Andrew Smith - 2022 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 60 (4):661-686.
    W. V. Quine calls some general methods of science maxims: general defeasible principles that call on us to approximate, maximize, or minimize a state and that are interpreted and weighed in context-sensitive ways. On my reading, his empiricism asks us to maximize accepting overall theories empirically equivalent to ours but to minimize accepting sentences that both do not affect the empirical content of our overall theory and do not simplify our overall theory. His naturalism asks us to maximize accepting sentences (...)
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  2. Carnap and Quine on Sense and Nonsense.James Andrew Smith - 2021 - Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy 9 (10):1-28.
    I offer an interpretation of Carnap and Quine’s views on cognitive significance and insignificance. The basic idea behind their views is as follows: to judge an expression is insignificant is to recommend it not be used in or explicated into languages used to express truth-valued judgments in inquiry; to judge an expression is significant is to recommend it be used in or explicated into such languages. These judgments are pragmatic judgments, made in light of purposes for language use in inquiry. (...)
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  3. The Logic of Empirical Theories.Marian Przelecki - 1969 - London, UK: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
    The title of this monograph needs explanation. It certainly sounds too promising. A more adequate, though more cumbersome one, would read: the logical syntax and semantics of the language of empirical theories. The treatment of this subject in the present monograph needs further qualifications. It focusses on what is characteristic of empirical theories as opposed to others, viz. mathematical ones. Now the difference between these two kinds of theories lies evidently, not in their syntax, but semantics. This is why our (...)
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  4. Logical Content and Empirical Significance.Ken Gemes - 1998 - In Paul Weingartner, Gerhard Schurz & Georg Dorn (eds.), The Role of Pragmatics in Contemporary Philosophy: Proceedings of the 20th International Wittgenstein Symposium, 10-16 August 1997, Kirchberg am Wechsel (Austria). Vienna: Verlag Halder-Pichler-Tempsky.
    In this paper I will investigate the possibility of completing a Positivist style account of demarcation. One reason for pursuing this project is that standard criticisms of Positivism do not have the bite against the demarcation project that they are often assumed to have. To argue this will be the burden of the first part of this paper. The other reason is that new research in logic has provided machinery not available to the Positivists; machinery that shows promise for solving (...)
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  5. Armchair Philosophy Naturalized.Sebastian Lutz - 2020 - Synthese 197 (3):1099-1125.
    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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  6. Empirical Significance, Predictive Power, and Explication.Jonathan Surovell - 2019 - Synthese 196 (6):2519-2539.
    Criteria of empirical significance are supposed to state conditions under which reference to an unobservable object or property is “empirically meaningful”. The intended kind of empirical meaningfulness should be necessary for admissibility into the selective contexts of scientific inquiry. I defend Justus’s recent argument that the reasons generally given for rejecting the project of defining a significance criterion are unpersuasive. However, as I show, this project remains wedded to an overly narrow conception of its subject matter. Even the most cutting (...)
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  7. Testability.Elliott Sober - 1999 - Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 73 (2):47-76.
    That some propositions are testable, while others are not, was a fundamental idea in the philosophical program known as logical empiricism. That program is now widely thought to be defunct. Quine’s (1953) “Two Dogmas of Empiricism” and Hempel’s (1950) “Problems and Changes in the Empiricist Criterion of Meaning” are among its most notable epitaphs. Yet, as we know from Mark Twain’s comment on an obituary that he once had the pleasure of reading about himself, the report of a death can (...)
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  8. Carnap on Empirical Significance.Sebastian Lutz - 2017 - Synthese 194 (1):217-252.
    Carnap’s search for a criterion of empirical significance is usually considered a failure. I argue that the results from two out of his three different approaches are at the very least problematic, but that one approach led to success. Carnap’s criterion of translatability into logical syntax is too vague to allow for definite results. His criteria for terms—introducibility by chains of reduction sentences and his criterion from “The Methodological Character of Theoretical Concepts”—are almost trivial and have no clear relation to (...)
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  9. XII.—Verification.I. Berlin - 1939 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 39 (1):225-248.
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  10. IX.—Verification and Experience.A. J. Ayer - 1937 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 37 (1):137-156.
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  11. VIII.—Verification and Understanding.Margaret MacDonald - 1934 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 34 (1):143-156.
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  12. The Verification Principle: Another Puncture.A. G. Suarez - 2000 - Analysis 60 (3):293-295.
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  13. Dr Joad and the Verification Principle.J. N. Findlay - 1949 - Hibbert Journal 48:120.
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  14. The Cognitive Status of Scientific Theories.Ronald Fredrick Hough - 1970 - Dissertation, The Ohio State University
  15. Amending the Verification Principle.Robert Brown & Alonso Church - 1950 - Analysis 11:87.
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  16. Some Consequences of Prof. Ayer's Verification Principle.D. J. O'Connor - 1950 - Analysis 10 (3):67-72.
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  17. The Verification Principle.Gilbert Ryle - 1951 - Revue Internationale de Philosophie 5 (3/4=17/18):243.
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  18. The Verification Principle: Its Problems and Development.Shane Andre - 1966 - Dissertation, The Claremont Graduate University
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  19. Beyond the Formalist Criterion of Cognitive Significance: Philipp Frank’s Later Antimetaphysics.Thomas Uebel - 2011 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 1 (1):47-72.
    This article considers the development of Philipp Frank’s opposition to metaphysics in the light of the contention that there also was a long-standing pragmatic strand to the theorizing about science in the Vienna Circle. It is argued that the later Frank did not only distinguish metaphysical statements from those deemed simply cognitively meaningless by a substantive criterion but that in order to identify the latter he also sought to employ a practical rather than a formal criterion with which he and (...)
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  20. Seeing is Believing: The Effect of Brain Images on Judgments of Scientific Reasoning.David P. McCabe & Alan D. Castel - 2008 - Cognition 107 (1):343-352.
  21. Testovateľnosť a význam observačných a teoretických termínov.Lukáš Bielik - 2011 - 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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  22. Testability and Meaning of Observation Terms and Theoretical Terms.Lukas Bielik - 2011 - Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu 18 (3):384-397.
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  23. Carnap's Empiricism, Lost and Found.Robert G. Hudson - 2008 - Proceedings of the Xxii World Congress of Philosophy 43:81-88.
    Recent scholarship (by mainly Michael Friedman, but also by Thomas Uebel) on the philosophy of Rudolf Carnap covering the period from the publication of Carnap’s’ 1928 book Der Logische Aufbau der Welt through to the mid to late 1930’s has tended to view Carnap as espousing a form of conventionalism (epitomized by his adoption of the principle of tolerance) and not a form of empirical foundationalism. On this view, it follows that Carnap’s 1934 The Logical Syntax of Language is the (...)
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  24. The Logical Analysis of Scientific Language, According to Carnap.Ramon Cirera - 1993 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 45 (1):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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