Individuating quantities

Philosophical Studies 176 (4):853-878 (2019)
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When discrepancies are discovered between the outcomes of different measurement procedures, two sorts of explanation are open to scientists. Either some of the outcomes are inaccurate or the procedures are not measuring the same quantity. I argue that, due to the possibility of systematic error, the choice between and is underdetermined in principle by any possible evidence. Consequently, foundationalist criteria of quantity individuation are either empty or circular. I propose a coherentist, model-based account of measurement that avoids the underdetermination problem, and use this account to explain how scientists individuate quantities in practice.



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Eran Tal
McGill University

Citations of this work

Measuring the non-existent: validity before measurement.Kino Zhao - 2023 - Philosophy of Science 90 (2):227–244.
Two Myths of Representational Measurement.Eran Tal - 2021 - Perspectives on Science 29 (6):701-741.
Saving the Data.Greg Lusk - 2021 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 72 (1):277-298.

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References found in this work

The Dappled World: A Study of the Boundaries of Science.Nancy Cartwright - 1999 - New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Scientific Representation: Paradoxes of Perspective.Bas C. Van Fraassen - 2008 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK.
Philosophy of Natural Science.Carl G. Hempel - 1967 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 18 (1):70-72.

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