Australasian Journal of Philosophy 82 (2):242 – 264 (2004)

Bryson Brown
University of Lethbridge
Empirical adequacy is a central notion in van Fraassen's empiricist view of science. I argue that van Fraassen's account of empirical adequacy in terms of a partial isomorphism between certain structures in some model(s) of the theory and certain actual structures (the observables) in the world, is untenable. The empirical adequacy of a theory can only be tested in the context of an accepted practice of observation. But because the theory itself does not determine the correct practice of observation, its failure to pass the test does not show the failure of an isomorphism between the empirical substructure of some model(s) of the theory and observable structures in nature. Further, because the choice of a practice of observation is a pragmatic one grounded in epistemic goals we seek in observation, van Fraassen's anthropocentric view of observability is epistemically unmotivated.
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DOI 10.1080/713659836
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