Structural realism is considered by many realists and antirealists alike as the most defensible form of scientific realism. There are now many forms of structural realism and an extensive literature about them. There are interesting connections with debates in metaphysics, philosophy of physics and philosophy of mathematics. This entry is intended to be a comprehensive survey of the field.
We outline Ladyman's 'metaphysical' or 'ontic' form of structuralrealism and defend it against various objections. Cao, in particular, has questioned theview of ontology presupposed by this approach and we argue that by reconceptualisingobjects in structural terms it offers the best hope for the realist in thecontext of modern physics.
In discussions about whether the Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles is compatible with structuralist ontologies of mathematics, it is usually assumed that individual objects are subject to criteria of identity which somehow account for the identity of the individuals. Much of this debate concerns structures that admit of non-trivial automorphisms. We consider cases from graph theory that violate even weak formulations of PII. We argue that (i) the identity or difference of places in a structure is not to be (...) accounted for by anything other than the structure itself and that (ii) mathematical practice provides evidence for this view. We want to thank Leon Horsten, Jeff Ketland, Øystein Linnebo, John Mayberry, Richard Pettigrew, and Philip Welch for valuable comments on drafts of this paper. We are especially grateful to Fraser MacBride for correcting our interpretation of two of his papers and for other helpful comments. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
It is argued that recent discussion of the principle of the identity of indiscernibles (PII) and quantum mechanics has lost sight of the broader philosophical motivation and significance of PII and that the `received view' of the status of PII in the light of quantum mechanics survives recent criticisms of it by Muller, Saunders, and Seevinck.
There is good reason to believe that scientific realism requires a commitment to the objective modal structure of the physical world. Causality, equilibrium, laws of nature, and probability all feature prominently in scientific theory and explanation, and each one is a modal notion. If we are committed to the content of our best scientific theories, we must accept the modal nature of the physical world. But what does the scientific realist’s commitment to physical modality require? We consider whether scientific realism (...) is compatible with Humeanism about the laws of nature, and we conclude that it is not. We specifically identify three major problems for the best-systems account of lawhood: its central concept of strength cannot be formulated non-circularly, it cannot offer a satisfactory account of the laws of the special sciences, and it can offer no explanation of the success of inductive inference. In addition, Humeanism fails to be naturalistically motivated. For these reasons, we conclude that the scientific realist must embrace natural necessity. (shrink)
The semantic, or model-theoretic, approach to theories has recently come under criticism on two fronts: (i) it is claimed that it cannot account for the wide diversity of models employed in scientific practice—a claim which has led some to propose a “deflationary” account of models; (ii) it is further contended that the sense of “model” used by the approach differs from that given in model theory. Our aim in the present work is to articulate a possible response to these claims, (...) drawing on recent developments within the semantic approach itself. Thus, the first is answered by utilizing the notion of a “partial structure”, first introduced in this context by da Costa and French in 1990. The second claim is undermined by consideration of van Fraassen's understanding of “model” which corresponds well with that evinced by modem mathematicians. This latter discussion, in particular, has an impact on the continuing debate regarding the relative merits of the semantic and syntactic views and the developments presented here can be taken to provide further support to the former. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to revisit the phlogiston theory to see what can be learned from it about the relationship between scientific realism, approximate truth and successful reference. It is argued that phlogiston theory did to some extent correctly describe the causal or nomological structure of the world, and that some of its central terms can be regarded as referring. However, it is concluded that the issue of whether or not theoretical terms successfully refer is not the key (...) to formulating the appropriate form of scientific realism in response to arguments from theory change, and that the case of phlogiston theory is shown to be readily accommodated by ontic structural realism. (shrink)
We examine, from the partial structures perspective, two forms of applicability of mathematics: at the “bottom” level, the applicability of theoretical structures to the “appearances”, and at the “top” level, the applicability of mathematical to physical theories. We argue that, to accommodate these two forms of applicability, the partial structures approach needs to be extended to include a notion of “partial homomorphism”. As a case study, we present London's analysis of the superfluid behavior of liquid helium in terms of Bose‐Einstein (...) statistics. This involved both the introduction of group theory at the top level, and some modeling at the “phenomenological” level, and thus provides a nice example of the relationships we are interested in. We conclude with a discussion of the “autonomy” of London's model. (shrink)
Homotopy Type Theory is a proposed new language and foundation for mathematics, combining algebraic topology with logic. An important rule for the treatment of identity in HoTT is path induction, which is commonly explained by appeal to the homotopy interpretation of the theory's types, tokens, and identities as spaces, points, and paths. However, if HoTT is to be an autonomous foundation then such an interpretation cannot play a fundamental role. In this paper we give a derivation of path induction, motivated (...) from pre-mathematical considerations, without recourse to homotopy theory. (shrink)
Questions about the relation between identity and discernibility are important both in philosophy and in model theory. We show how a philosophical question about identity and dis- cernibility can be ‘factorized’ into a philosophical question about the adequacy of a formal language to the description of the world, and a mathematical question about discernibility in this language. We provide formal definitions of various notions of discernibility and offer a complete classification of their logical relations. Some new and surprising facts are (...) proved; for instance, that weak dis- cernibility corresponds to discernibility in a language with constants for every object, and that weak discernibility is the most discerning nontrivial discernibility relation. (shrink)
This chapter discusses the plausibility of the criticism against the thesis that external factors causally influence cognition and that they are, consequently, partly constitutive of cognition. The discussion should not be taken as implicitly proposing that the opposite theory is true, although the works of Adams and Aizawa suggest that they are defending internalism. This can be attributed to the fact that systems are, by definition, bounded; one must make assumptions about systems in developing cognitive models. This chapter defends the (...) position that metaphysical considerations should play no role in deciding how to model cognition. It further explains how there is no basis for a general fact of the matter about determining what is and what is not a cognitive system. (shrink)
Constructive empiricism is supposed to offer a positive alternative to scientific realism that dispenses with the need for metaphysics. I first review the terms of the debate before arguing that the standard objections to constructive empiricism are not decisive. I then explain van Fraassen's views on modality and counterfactuals, and argue that, because constructive empiricism recommends on epistemological grounds belief in the empirical adequacy rather than the truth of theories, it requires that there be an objective modal distinction between the (...) observable and the unobservable. This conclusion is incompatible with van Fraassen's empiricism. Finally I explain some further problems for constructive empiricism that arise when we consider modal matters. (shrink)
Homotopy Type Theory is a putative new foundation for mathematics grounded in constructive intensional type theory that offers an alternative to the foundations provided by ZFC set theory and category theory. This article explains and motivates an account of how to define, justify, and think about HoTT in a way that is self-contained, and argues that, so construed, it is a candidate for being an autonomous foundation for mathematics. We first consider various questions that a foundation for mathematics might be (...) expected to answer, and find that many of them are not answered by the standard formulation of HoTT as presented in the ‘HoTT Book’. More importantly, the presentation of HoTT given in the HoTT Book is not autonomous since it explicitly depends upon other fields of mathematics, in particular homotopy theory. We give an alternative presentation of HoTT that does not depend upon ideas from other parts of mathematics, and in particular makes no reference to homotopy theory, and argue that it is a candidate autonomous foundation for mathematics. Our elaboration of HoTT is based on a new interpretation of types as mathematical concepts, which accords with the intensional nature of the type theory. 1 Introduction2 What Is a Foundation for Mathematics?2.1 A characterization of a foundation for mathematics2.2 Autonomy3 The Basic Features of Homotopy Type Theory3.1 The rules3.2 The basic ways to construct types3.3 Types as propositions and propositions as types3.4 Identity3.5 The homotopy interpretation4 Autonomy of the Standard Presentation?5 The Interpretation of Tokens and Types5.1 Tokens as mathematical objects?5.2 Tokens and types as concepts6 Justifying the Elimination Rule for Identity7 The Foundations of Homotopy Type Theory without Homotopy7.1 Framework7.2 Semantics7.3 Metaphysics7.4 Epistemology7.5 Methodology8 Possible Objections to this Account8.1 A constructive foundation for mathematics?8.2 What are concepts?8.3 Isn’t this just Brouwerian intuitionism?8.4 Duplicated objects8.5 Intensionality and substitution salva veritate9 Conclusion9.1 Advantages of this foundation. (shrink)
We provide a formulation of physicalism, and show that this is to be favoured over alternative formulations. Much of the literature on physicalism assumes without argument that there is a fundamental level to reality, and we show that a consideration of the levels problem and its implications for physicalism tells in favour of the form of physicalism proposed here. Its hey elements are, fast, that the empirical and substantive part of physicalism amounts to a prediction that physics will not posit (...) new entities solely for the purpose of accounting for mental phenomena, nor new entities with essentially mental characteristics such as propositioned attitudes or intentions; secondly, that physicalism can safely make do with no more than a weak global formulation of supervenience. (shrink)
Cartwright and her collaborators have elaborated a provocative view of science which emphasises the independence from theory &unknown;in methods and aims&unknown; of phenomenological model building. This thesis has been supported in a recent paper by an analysis of the London and London model of superconductivity. In the present work we begin with a critique of Cartwright's account of the relationship between theoretical and phenomenological models before elaborating an alternative picture within the framework of the partial structures version of the semantic (...) approach to theories. Drawing on the recent histories of superconductivity by Dahl and Gavroglu, together with the original works by London and London and by F. London separately, and taking due consideration of the heuristic aspects, we argue that the historical details fail to support Cartwright et al.'s claims but that they fit comfortably within the partial structures framework. (shrink)
Quantum mechanics tells us that states involving indistinguishable fermions must be antisymmetrized. This is often taken to mean that indistinguishable fermions are always entangled. We consider several notions of entanglement and argue that on the best of them, indistinguishable fermions are not always entangled. We also present a simple but unconventional way of representing fermionic states that allows us to maintain a link between entanglement and non-factorizability.
Scientific representation: A long journey from pragmatics to pragmatics Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11016-010-9465-5 Authors James Ladyman, Department of Philosophy, University of Bristol, 9 Woodland Rd, Bristol, BS8 1TB UK Otávio Bueno, Department of Philosophy, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL 33124, USA Mauricio Suárez, Department of Logic and Philosophy of Science, Complutense University of Madrid, 28040 Madrid, Spain Bas C. van Fraassen, Philosophy Department, San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132, USA Journal Metascience Online (...) ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796. (shrink)
Complex systems research is becoming ever more important in both the natural and social sciences. It is commonly implied that there is such a thing as a complex system, different examples of which are studied across many disciplines. However, there is no concise definition of a complex system, let alone a definition on which all scientists agree. We review various attempts to characterize a complex system, and consider a core set of features that are widely associated with complex systems in (...) the literature and by those in the field. We argue that some of these features are neither necessary nor sufficient for complexity, and that some of them are too vague or confused to be of any analytical use. In order to bring mathematical rigour to the issue we then review some standard measures of complexity from the scientific literature, and offer a taxonomy for them, before arguing that the one that best captures the qualitative notion of the order produced by complex systems is that of the Statistical Complexity. Finally, we offer our own list of necessary conditions as a characterization of complexity. These conditions are qualitative and may not be jointly sufficient for complexity. We close with some suggestions for future work. (shrink)
Psillos has recently argued that van Fraassen’s arguments against abduction fail. Moreover, he claimed that, if successful, these arguments would equally undermine van Fraassen’s own constructive empiricism, for, Psillos thinks, it is only by appeal to abduction that constructive empiricism can be saved from issuing in a bald scepticism. We show that Psillos’ criticisms are misguided, and that they are mostly based on misinterpretations of van Fraassen’s arguments. Furthermore, we argue that Psillos’ arguments for his claim that constructive empiricism itself (...) needs abduction point up to his failure to recognize the importance of van Fraassen’s broader epistemology for constructive empiricism. Towards the end of our paper we discuss the suspected relationship between constructive empiricism and scepticism in the light of this broader epistemology, and from a somewhat more general perspective. (shrink)
There has recently been a good deal of controversy about Landauer's Principle, which is often stated as follows: The erasure of one bit of information in a computational device is necessarily accompanied by a generation of kTln2 heat. This is often generalised to the claim that any logically irreversible operation cannot be implemented in a thermodynamically reversible way. John Norton (2005) and Owen Maroney (2005) both argue that Landauer's Principle has not been shown to hold in general, and Maroney offers (...) a method that he claims instantiates the operation Reset in a thermodynamically reversible way. In this paper we defend the qualitative form of Landauer's Principle, and clarify its quantitative consequences (assuming the second law of thermodynamics). We analyse in detail what it means for a physical system to implement a logical transformation L, and we make this precise by defining the notion of an L-machine. Then we show that logical irreversibility of L implies thermodynamic irreversibility of every corresponding L-machine. We do this in two ways. First, by assuming the phenomenological validity of the Kelvin statement of the second law, and second, by using information-theoretic reasoning. We illustrate our results with the example of the logical transformation 'Reset', and thereby recover the quantitative form of Landauer's Principle. (shrink)
, I argued that Bas van Fraassen's constructive empiricism was undermined in various ways by his antirealism about modality. Here I offer some comments and responses to the reply to my arguments by Bradley Monton and van Fraassen . In particular, after making some minor points, I argue that Monton and van Fraassen have not done enough to show that the context dependence of counterfactuals renders their truth conditions non-objective, and I also argue that adopting modal realism does after all (...) undermine the motivation for constructive empiricism. Introduction Underdetermination and epistemic modesty Counterfactual observations Modal realism and constructive empiricism. (shrink)
van Fraassen (The empirical stance, 2002) contrasts the empirical stance with the materialist stance. The way he describes them makes both of them attractive, and while opposed they have something in common for both stances are scientific approaches to philosophy. The difference between them reflects their differing conceptions of science itself. Empiricists emphasise fallibilism, verifiability and falsifiability, and also to some extent scepticism and tolerance of novel hypotheses. Materialists regard the theoretical picture of the world as matter in motion as (...) a true and explanatory account and insist on not taking ' spooky' entities or processes seriously as potential explanations of phenomena that so far lie outside the scope of successful science. The history of science shows us that both stances have been instrumental in the achievement of progress at various times. It is therefore plausible for a naturalist to suggest that science depends for its success on the dialectic between empiricism and materialism. A truly naturalist approach to philosophy ought then to synthesise them. Call the synthesized empiricist and materialist stances 4he scientistic stance'.This paper elaborates and defends it. (shrink)
When considering controversial thermodynamic scenarios such as Maxwell's demon, it is often necessary to consider probabilistic mixtures of states. This raises the question of how, if at all, to assign entropy to them. The information-theoretic entropy is often used in such cases; however, no general proof of the soundness of doing so has been given, and indeed some arguments against doing so have been presented. We offer a general proof of the applicability of the information-theoretic entropy to probabilistic mixtures of (...) macrostates, making clear the assumptions on which it depends, in particular a probabilistic version of the Kelvin statement of the Second Law. We briefly discuss the interpretation of our result. (shrink)
While there are many examples of metaphysical theorising being heuristically and intellectually important in the progress of scientific knowledge, many people wonder how metaphysics not closely informed and inspired by empirical science could lead to rival or even supplementary knowledge about the world. This paper assesses the merits of a popular defence of the a priori methodology of metaphysics that goes as follows. The first task of the metaphysician, like the scientist, is to construct a hypothesis that accounts for the (...) phenomena in question. It is then argued that among the possible metaphysical theories, the empirical evidence underdetermines the right one, just as the empirical evidence underdetermines the right scientific theory. In the latter case it is widely agreed that we must break the underdetermination by appeal to theoretical virtues, and this is just what should be and largely is done in metaphysics. This is part of a more general line of argument that defends metaphysics on the basis of its alleged continuity with highly theoretical science. In what follows metaphysics and theoretical science are compared in order to see whether the above style of defence of a priori metaphysics is successful. (shrink)
The primacy of physics generates a philosophical problem that the naturalist must solve in order to be entitled to an egalitarian acceptance of the ontological commitments he or she inherits from the special sciences and fundamental physics. The problem is the generalized causal exclusion argument. If there is no genuine causation in the domains of the special sciences but only in fundamental physics then there are grounds for doubting the existence of macroscopic objects and properties, or at least the concreteness (...) of them. The aim of this paper is to show that the causal exclusion problem derives its force from a false dichotomy between Humeanism about causation and a notion of productive or generative causation based on a defunct model of the physical world. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, University of Bristol, 9 Woodland Rd., Bristol BS8 1TB, UK. (shrink)
Among the most interesting features of Homotopy Type Theory is the way it treats identity, which has various unusual characteristics. We examine the formal features of “identity types” in HoTT, and how they relate to its other features including intensionality, constructive logic, the interpretation of types as concepts, and the Univalence Axiom. The unusual behaviour of identity types might suggest that they be reinterpreted as representing indiscernibility. We explore this by defining indiscernibility in HoTT and examine its relationship with identity. (...) We argue that identity types are a primitive component of HoTT and cannot be reduced to indiscernibility. (shrink)
This is the first of a pair of papers. It focuses on the development of the most notable phlogistic theories during the period 1766–1791, including the main experiments that their proponents proposed them to interpret. There was a rapid proliferation of late phlogistic theories, particularly from 1784, and the accounts of composition and important implications of the main theories are set out and their issues analysed. Each of them either reached impasses due to internal problems, or included features that made (...) them unacceptable even to other phlogistians. The expositions and analyses of these theories are given in terms of details that were in the literature at the time or otherwise potentially understandable by the participants given contemporary practice. Some relevant methodological aspects of the history of science are discussed, and the secondary literature is briefly surveyed. The second paper deals with the contemporary development of the new chemistry, and with theory comparison and theory choice in the same period. (shrink)
According to logical positivism, so the story goes, metaphysical questions are meaningless, since they do not admit of empirical confirmation or refutation. However, the logical positivists did not in fact reject as meaningless all questions about for example, the structure of space and time. Rather, key figures such as Reichenbach and Schlick believed that scientific theories often presupposed a conceptual framework that was not itself empirically testable, but which was required for the theory as a whole to be empirically testable. (...) For example, the theory of Special Relativity relies upon the simultaneity convention introduced by Einstein that assumes that the one-way speed of light is the same in all directions of space. Hence, the logical positivists accepted an a priori component to physical theories. However, they denied that this a priori component is necessarily true. Whereas for Kant, metaphysics is the a priori science of the necessary structure of rational thought about reality , the logical positivists were forced by the history of science to accept that the a priori structure of theories could change. Hence, they defended a notion of what Michael Friedman calls the ‘relativised’ or the ‘constitutive’ a priori. Carnap and Reichenbach held that such an a priori framework was conventional, whereas Schlick seems to have been more of a realist and held that the overall relative simplicity of different theories could count as evidence for their truth, notwithstanding the fact that some parts of them are not directly testable. All this is part of the story of how the verification principle came to be abandoned, and how logical positivism transmuted into logical empiricism. (shrink)
Few can imagine a world without telephones or televisions; many depend on computers and the Internet as part of daily life. Without scientific theory, these developments would not have been possible. In this exceptionally clear and engaging introduction to philosophy of science, James Ladyman explores the philosophical questions that arise when we reflect on the nature of the scientific method and the knowledge it produces. He discusses whether fundamental philosophical questions about knowledge and reality might be answered by science, and (...) considers in detail the debate between realists and antirealists about the extent of scientific knowledge. Along the way, central topics in philosophy of science, such as the demarcation of science from non-science, induction, confirmation and falsification, the relationship between theory and observation and relativism are all addressed. Important and complex current debates over underdetermination, inference to the best explaination and the implications of radical theory change are clarified and clearly explained for those new to the subject. (shrink)