The Epistemology of Measurement: A Model-based Account

Dissertation, University of Toronto (2012)

Eran Tal
McGill University
This work develops an epistemology of measurement, that is, an account of the conditions under which measurement and standardization methods produce knowledge as well as the nature, scope, and limits of this knowledge. I focus on three questions: (i) how is it possible to tell whether an instrument measures the quantity it is intended to? (ii) what do claims to measurement accuracy amount to, and how might such claims be justified? (iii) when is disagreement among instruments a sign of error, and when does it imply that instruments measure different quantities? Based on a series of case studies conducted in collaboration with the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), I argue for a model-based approach to the epistemology of physical measurement. To measure a physical quantity, I argue, is to estimate the value of a parameter in an idealized model of a physical process. Such estimation involves inference from the final state (‘indication’) of a process to the value range of a parameter (‘outcome’) in light of theoretical and statistical assumptions. Contrary to contemporary philosophical views, measurement outcomes cannot be obtained by mapping the structure of indications. Instead, measurement outcomes as well as claims to accuracy, error and quantity individuation can only be adjudicated relative to a choice of idealized modelling assumptions.
Keywords measurement  philosophy of science  models  accuracy  instruments  physical science  metrology  idealization
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References found in this work BETA

Naming and Necessity.Saul Kripke - 1980 - Harvard University Press.
The Social Construction of What?Ian Hacking - 1999 - Harvard University Press.
The Scientific Image.C. Van Fraassen Bas - 1980 - Oxford University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

Old and New Problems in Philosophy of Measurement.Eran Tal - 2013 - Philosophy Compass 8 (12):1159-1173.
Computer Simulation, Measurement, and Data Assimilation.Wendy S. Parker - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (1):273-304.
Making Time: A Study in the Epistemology of Measurement.Eran Tal - 2016 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 67 (1):297-335.
Computer Simulation and the Features of Novel Empirical Data.Greg Lusk - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 56:145-152.
Models in the Geosciences.Alisa Bokulich & Naomi Oreskes - 2017 - In Lorenzo Magnani & Tommaso Wayne Bertolotti (eds.), Springer Handbook of Model-Based Science. Springer. pp. 891-911.

View all 13 citations / Add more citations

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