Can the Language of Science Be Formalized?

Dissertation, Columbia University (1987)
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The dissertation develops a research program for the investigation of certain philosophically interesting features of scientific theories through the analysis of scientific language. The starting point is Rudolf Carnap's The Logical Syntax of Language. In Chapter One, Carnap's program is considered, with particular attention given to the connection between Carnap's conception of the language of science and his employment of certain formal logical systems for the purposes of explicating the logical syntax of that language. The suggestion is made that insofar as Carnap's investigations failed to achieve the strength of meta-theoretic results with respect to the natural sciences which the same techniques offered with respect to mathematical theories, the problems can in large measure be ascribed to the nature of the formal logics employed. In Chapter Two, the task of formalization is considered more broadly. The argument is made that while formalization may indeed be interesting and feasible for some of natural science, the formal systems of meta-mathematics are not necessarily vital nor even adequate to the task. A formal theory of natural language structure is presented, based on the work of Zellig Harris, which suggests a methodology for a more direct logical investigation of scientific language. Chapter Three develops a strategy for applying the formal linguistic techniques to a scientific sublanguage, by presenting the formal analysis of causatives in a corpus of research articles drawn from cellular immunology. Chapter Four considers the question of whether or not the analysis yielded in Chapter Three suffices for formalization of the causatives in any interesting sense. The results are mixed: while the causatives do not yield an interesting formalism, the reasons for this failure are of interest, and in part confirm the efficacy of the methods. They indicate as well possible fruitful lines of research for future applications



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Veronica J. Vieland
Ohio State University

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