Synthese 158 (1):1 - 17 (2007)
Recent semantic approaches to scientific structuralism, aiming to make precise the concept of shared structure between models, formally frame a model as a type of set-structure. This framework is then used to provide a semantic account of (a) the structure of a scientific theory, (b) the applicability of a mathematical theory to a physical theory, and (c) the structural realist’s appeal to the structural continuity between successive physical theories. In this paper, I challenge the idea that, to be so used, the concept of a model and so the concept of shared structure between models must be formally framed within a single unified framework, set-theoretic or other. I first investigate the Bourbaki-inspired assumption that structures are types of set-structured systems and next consider the extent to which this problematic assumption underpins both Suppes’ and recent semantic views of the structure of a scientific theory. I then use this investigation to show that, when it comes to using the concept of shared structure, there is no need to agree with French that “without a formal framework for explicating this concept of ‘structure-similarity’ it remains vague, just as Giere’s concept of similarity between models does ...” (French, 2000, Synthese, 125, pp. 103–120, p. 114). Neither concept is vague; either can be made precise by appealing to the concept of a morphism, but it is the context (and not any set-theoretic type) that determines the appropriate kind of morphism. I make use of French’s (1999, From physics to philosophy (pp. 187–207). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) own example from the development of quantum theory to show that, for both Weyl and Wigner’s programmes, it was the context of considering the ‘relevant symmetries’ that determined that the appropriate kind of morphism was the one that preserved the shared Lie-group structure of both the theoretical and phenomenological models.
|Keywords||Semantic view of scientific theories Structural realism Scientific structuralism Suppes Bourbaki structuralism Shared structure Mathematical applicability|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
References found in this work BETA
Remodelling Structural Realism: Quantum Physics and the Metaphysics of Structure. [REVIEW]Steven French & James Ladyman - 2003 - Synthese 136 (1):31-56.
What is Structural Realism?J. Ladyman - 1998 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 29 (3):409-424.
The Structure of Scientific Theories.Frederick Suppe (ed.) - 1974 - Urbana, University of Illinois Press.
Citations of this work BETA
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Structural Realism but Were Afraid to Ask.Roman Frigg & Ioannis Votsis - 2011 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 1 (2):227-276.
The Structure of Causal Sets.Christian Wüthrich - 2012 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 43 (2):223-241.
Unitary Inequivalence as a Problem for Structural Realism.Steven French - 2012 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 43 (2):121-136.
Shifting to Structures in Physics and Biology: A Prophylactic for Promiscuous Realism.Steven French - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 42 (2):164-173.
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