The Structure of Scientific Theories


Authors
Rasmus Winther
University of California, Santa Cruz
Abstract
Scientific inquiry has led to immense explanatory and technological successes, partly as a result of the pervasiveness of scientific theories. Relativity theory, evolutionary theory, and plate tectonics were, and continue to be, wildly successful families of theories within physics, biology, and geology. Other powerful theory clusters inhabit comparatively recent disciplines such as cognitive science, climate science, molecular biology, microeconomics, and Geographic Information Science (GIS). Effective scientific theories magnify understanding, help supply legitimate explanations, and assist in formulating predictions. Moving from their knowledge-producing representational functions to their interventional roles (Hacking 1983), theories are integral to building technologies used within consumer, industrial, and scientific milieus. This entry explores the structure of scientific theories from the perspective of the Syntactic, Semantic, and Pragmatic Views. Each of these views answers questions such as the following in unique ways. What is the best characterization of the composition and function of scientific theory? How is theory linked with world? Which philosophical tools can and should be employed in describing and reconstructing scientific theory? Is an understanding of practice and application necessary for a comprehension of the core structure of a scientific theory? How are these three views ultimately related?
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The Mind, the Lab, and the Field: Three Kinds of Populations in Scientific Practice.Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther, Ryan Giordano, Michael D. Edge & Rasmus Nielsen - 2015 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 52:12-21.
Rational Endorsement.Will Fleisher - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (10):2649-2675.
MUDdy Understanding.Daniel Wilkenfeld - 2017 - Synthese 194 (4).
Explanation and the Nature of Scientific Knowledge.Kevin McCain - 2015 - Science & Education 24 (7-8):827-854.

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