Synthese 192 (11):3601-3616 (2015)

David Danks
Carnegie Mellon University
Our best sciences are frequently held to be one way, perhaps the optimal way, to learn about the world’s higher-level ontology and structure. I first argue that which scientific theory is “best” depends in part on our goals or purposes. As a result, it is theoretically possible to have two scientific theories of the same domain, where each theory is best for some goal, but where the two theories posit incompatible ontologies. That is, it is possible for us to have goal-dependent pluralism in our scientific ontologies. This ontological pluralism arises simply from our inability to directly know the world’s objects, rather than any particular claims about our cognitive limits, values, or social structures. I then present two case studies in which this possibility actually occurs—one based on simulations and theoretical analyses of constructed causal systems, and one from actual scientific investigations into the proper ontology for ocean regions
Keywords Scientific ontology  Pluralism  Goals  Simulation  Causal prediction  Ocean index
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-014-0649-1
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References found in this work BETA

Writing the Book of the World.Theodore Sider - 2011 - Oxford University Press.
Causality: Models, Reasoning and Inference.Judea Pearl - 2000 - Cambridge University Press.

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