Phenomena and patterns in data sets

Erkenntnis 47 (2):217-228 (1997)
Abstract
Bogen and Woodward claim that the function of scientific theories is to account for 'phenomena', which they describe both as investigator-independent constituents of the world and as corresponding to patterns in data sets. I argue that, if phenomena are considered to correspond to patterns in data, it is inadmissible to regard them as investigator-independent entities. Bogen and Woodward's account of phenomena is thus incoherent. I offer an alternative account, according to which phenomena are investigator-relative entities. All the infinitely many patterns that data sets exhibit have equal intrinsic claim to the status of phenomenon: each investigator may stipulate which patterns correspond to phenomena for him or her. My notion of phenomena accords better both with experimental practice and with the historical development of science.
Keywords Philosophy   Philosophy   Epistemology   Ethics   Logic   Ontology
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DOI 10.1023/A:1005387021520
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