Synthese 130 (1):13-47 (2002)

Within post - Kuhnian, philosophy of science, much effort has been devoted to issues related to conceptual change, such as incommensurability, scientific progress and realism, but mostly in terms of reference, without a fine - grained theory of scientific concepts/senses. Within the philosophy of language and of mind tradition, there is a large body of work on concepts, but the application to scientific concepts has been very tentative. The aim of this paper is to propose a general framework for a theory for the individuation of scientific concepts. The general view about the individuation of concepts favored here is the possession - condition approach: to individuate a concept is to identify its possession conditions. The general metascientific tools for the analysis of scientific theories are model - theoretic, more specifically, structuralist: scientific theories, the entities to which scientifc concepts belong, are model - theoretic theory - nets. The general idea about the content of scientific concepts that inspires this proposal comes from: (i) our grandfathers’ "laws - plus - correspondence rules", (ii) Kuhns "laws applied to exemplars" views and (iii) moderate operationalism. The aim is to show that some clarification can be gained applying the possesion condition appproach to (an expansion of) these three elements using structuralist metascientific tools. First, I briefly present the two main structuralist ideas I shall use: the difference between observability and non - theoreticity, and the notion of theory - net. Second, I informally introduce the five components that come from my reading of the three traditional elements; these components are, or are not, plausible independently of how they will be integrated within a theory of concept - identity. Third, I present the kore of the theory of possession conditions for concept - identity that we shall use for the integration of such components. Finally, I propose the general traits of the possession condition that corresponds to each of these five components, I present some problems and point out some possible ways of dealing with them.
Keywords Philosophy   Philosophy   Epistemology   Logic   Metaphysics   Philosophy of Language
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Reprint years 2002
DOI 10.1023/A:1013887521262
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