The debate between critics of syntactic and semantic approaches to the formalization of scientific theories has been going on for over 50 years. I structure the debate in light of a recent exchange between Hans Halvorson, Clark Glymour, and Bas van Fraassen and argue that the only remaining disagreement concerns the alleged difference in the dependence of syntactic and semantic approaches on languages of predicate logic. This difference turns out to be illusory.
Carnap suggests that philosophy can be construed as being engaged solely in conceptual engineering. I argue that since many results of the sciences can be construed as stemming from conceptual engineering as well, Carnap’s account of philosophy can be methodologically naturalistic. This is also how he conceived of his account. That the sciences can be construed as relying heavily on conceptual engineering is supported by empirical investigations into scientific methodology, but also by a number of conceptual considerations. I present a (...) new conceptual consideration that generalizes Carnap’s conditions of adequacy for analytic–synthetic distinctions and thus widens the realm in which conceptual engineering can be used to choose analytic sentences. I apply these generalized conditions of adequacy to a recent analysis of scientific theories and defend the relevance of the analytic–synthetic distinction against criticisms by Quine, Demopoulos, and Papineau. (shrink)
I defend the Received View on scientific theories as developed by Carnap, Hempel, and Feigl against a number of criticisms based on misconceptions. First, I dispute the claim that the Received View demands axiomatizations in first order logic, and the further claim that these axiomatizations must include axioms for the mathematics used in the scientific theories. Next, I contend that models are important according to the Received View. Finally, I argue against the claim that the Received View is intended to (...) make the concept of a theory more precise. Rather, it is meant as a generalizable framework for explicating specific theories. (shrink)
I show that extant attempts to capture and generalize empirical adequacy in terms of partial structures fail. Indeed, the motivations for the generalizations in the partial structures approach are better met by the generalizations via approximation sets developed in “Generalizing Empirical Adequacy I”. Approximation sets also generalize partial structures.
According to ordinary language philosophy (OLP), philosophical problems can be solved by investigating ordinary language, often because the problems stem from its misuse. According to ideal language philosophy (ILP), on the other hand, philosophical problems exist because ordinary language is flawed and has to be improved or replaced by constructed languages that do not exhibit these flaws. OLP and ILP together make up linguistic philosophy, the view that philosophical problems are problems of language. Linguistic philosophy is opposed to what may (...) be called, for lack of a better word, ‘traditional philosophy’ (TP), the view that philosophical problems can be solved by discovering non-linguistic facts. In the following, OLP, ILP, and TP are taken to be methodologies, that is, frameworks in which to interpret and evaluate different philosophical methods (i.e., argumentative strategies). The two linguistic methodologies are discussed separately with TP as a foil, and then used to interpret the status of different philosophical methods. While each of the methods discussed here finds a plausible interpretation in each methodology, there are other arguments for and against linguistic philosophy in general, and for and against ILP and OLP in particular. As none of these arguments is decisive, I conclude with a superficial moral about peaceful co-existence. (shrink)
Syntactic approaches in the philosophy of science, which are based on formalizations in predicate logic, are often considered in principle inferior to semantic approaches, which are based on formalizations with the help of structures. To compare the two kinds of approach, I identify some ambiguities in common semantic accounts and explicate the concept of a structure in a way that avoids hidden references to a specific vocabulary. From there, I argue that contrary to common opinion (i) unintended models do not (...) pose a significant problem for syntactic approaches to scientific theories, (ii) syntactic approaches can be at least as language-independent as semantic ones, and (iii) in syntactic approaches, scientific theories can be as well connected to the world as in semantic ones. Based on these results, I argue that syntactic and semantic approaches fare equally well when it comes to (iv) ease of application, (v) accommodating the use of models in the sciences, and (vi) capturing the theory-observation relation. (shrink)
Carnap’s search for a criterion of empirical significance is usually considered a failure. I argue that the results from two out of his three different approaches are at the very least problematic, but that one approach led to success. Carnap’s criterion of translatability into logical syntax is too vague to allow for definite results. His criteria for terms—introducibility by chains of reduction sentences and his criterion from “The Methodological Character of Theoretical Concepts”—are almost trivial and have no clear relation to (...) the empirical significance of sentences. However, his criteria for sentences—translatability, verifiability, falsifiability, confirmability—are usable, and under the assumptions needed for the Carnap sentence approach, verifiability, falsifiability, and translatability become equivalent. As a result of the Carnap sentence approach, metaphysics is rendered analytic. (shrink)
I show that the central notion of Constructive Empiricism, empirical adequacy, can be expressed syntactically and specifically in the Received View of the logical empiricists. The formalization shows that the Received View is superior to Constructive Empiricism in the treatment of theories involving constants or functions from observable to unobservable objects. It also suggests a formalization of ‘full empirical informativeness’ in Constructive Empiricism.
This dissertation consists of three parts. Part I is a defense of an artificial language methodology in philosophy and a historical and systematic defense of the logical empiricists' application of an artificial language methodology to scientific theories. These defenses provide a justification for the presumptions of a host of criteria of empirical significance, which I analyze, compare, and develop in part II. On the basis of this analysis, in part III I use a variety of criteria to evaluate the scientific (...) status of intelligent design, and further discuss confirmation, reduction, and concept formation. (shrink)
Frank Plumpton Ramsey (1903–30) made seminal contributions to philosophy, mathematics and economics. Whilst he was acknowledged as a genius by his contemporaries, some of his most important ideas were not appreciated until decades later; now better appreciated, they continue to bear an influence upon contemporary philosophy. His historic significance was to usher in a new phase of analytic philosophy, which initially built upon the logical atomist doctrines of Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein, raising their ideas to a new level of (...) sophistication, but ultimately he became their successor rather than remain a mere acolyte. (shrink)
I provide an explicit formulation of empirical adequacy, the central concept of constructive empiricism, and point out a number of problems. Based on one of the inspirations for empirical adequacy, I generalize the notion of a theory to avoid implausible presumptions about the relation of theoretical concepts and observations, and generalize empirical adequacy with the help of approximation sets to allow for lack of knowledge, approximations, and successive gain of knowledge and precision. As a test case, I provide an application (...) of these generalizations to a simple interference phenomenon. (shrink)
Marian Przełęcki’s semantics for the Received View is a good explication of Carnap’s position on the subject, anticipates many discussions and results from both proponents and opponents of the Received View, and can be the basis for a thriving research program.
Abstract Artificial language philosophy (also called ‘ideal language philosophy’) is the position that philosophical problems are best solved or dissolved through a reform of language. Its underlying methodology—the development of languages for specific purposes—leads to a conventionalist view of language in general and of concepts in particular. I argue that many philosophical practices can be reinterpreted as applications of artificial language philosophy. In addition, many factually occurring interrelations between the sciences and philosophy of science are justified and clarified by the (...) assumption of an artificial language methodology. (shrink)
Laudan’s argument against the possibility of a demarcation criterion for scientiﬁc theories rests on establishing that any criterion must be a necessary and sufﬁcient condition. But Laudan’s argument at most establishes that any criterion must provide a necessary condition and a possibly different sufﬁcient condition. His own claims suggest that such a criterion is possible.
Proponents of linguistic philosophy hold that all non-empirical philosophical problems can be solved by either analyzing ordinary language or developing an ideal one. I review the debates on linguistic philosophy and between ordinary and ideal language philosophy. Using arguments from these debates, I argue that the results of experimental philosophy on intuitions support linguistic philosophy. Within linguistic philosophy, these experimental results support and complement ideal language philosophy. I argue further that some of the critiques of experimental philosophy are in fact (...) defenses of ideal language philosophy. Finally, I show how much of the current debate about experimental philosophy is anticipated in the debates about and within linguistic philosophy. Specifically, arguments by ideal language philosophers support experimental philosophy. (shrink)
I show that the partial truth of a sentence in a partial structure is equivalent to the truth of that sentence in an expansion of a structure that corresponds naturally to the partial structure. Further, a mapping is a partial homomorphism/partial isomorphism between two partial structures if and only if it is a homomorphism/isomorphism between their corresponding structures. It is a corollary that the partial truth of a sentence in a partial structure is equivalent to the truth of a specific (...) Ramsey sentence in a corresponding structure. Hence the partial structures approach can be expressed in standard first or second-order model theory, and it can be captured in the received view on scientific theories as developed by Carnap and Hempel. (shrink)
The sheer multitude of criteria of empirical significance has been taken as evidence that the pre-analytic notion being explicated is too vague to be useful. I show instead that a significant number of these criteria—by Ayer, Popper, Przełęcki, Suppes, and David Lewis, among others—not only form a coherent whole, but also connect directly to the theory of definition, the notion of empirical content as explicated by Ramsey sentences, and the theory of measurement; two criteria by Carnap and Sober are trivial, (...) but can be saved and connected to the other criteria by slight modifications. A corollary is that the ordinary language defense of Lewis, the conceptual arguments by Ayer and Popper, the theoretical considerations by Przełęcki, and the practical considerations by Suppes all apply to the same criterion or closely related criteria. Furthermore, the equivalence of some criteria allows for their individual justifications to be taken cumulatively and, together with the entailment relations between nonequivalent criteria, suggest criteria for general auxiliary assumptions, comparative criteria, and more liberal conceptions of observation. (shrink)
If intelligent design (id) is to compete with evolutionary theory (et), it must meet the modified falsifiability challenge, that is, make some deductive or probabilistic observational assertions. It must also meet the modified translatability challenge, which it fails if et makes all the observational assertions of id, while id does not make all the observational assertions of et. I discuss four prominent but diverse formulations of id and show that each either fails one of the two challenges or is analytically (...) false. (shrink)
In "A Danger of Definition: Polar Predicates in Metaethics," Mark Alfano (2009) concludes that the response-dependence theory of Prinz and others and the fitting-attitudes theory first articulated by Brentano are false because they imply empirically false statements. He further concludes that these statements cannot be avoided by revising the definitions of the terms 'good' and 'bad' used in the two theories. I strengthen Alfano's first conclusion by arguing that the two theories are false even if they imply empirically true but (...) conceptually contingent statements, and show how, contrary to his second conclusion, the theories can avoid both empirically false and conceptually contingent implications. (shrink)
This review is a critical discussion of three main claims in Debs and Redhead’s thought-provoking book Objectivity, Invariance, and Convention. These claims are: (i) Social acts impinge upon formal aspects of scientific representation; (ii) symmetries introduce the need for conventional choice; (iii) perspectival symmetry is a necessary and sufficient condition for objectivity, while symmetry simpliciter fails to be necessary.
I show that a theory may be empirically adequate according to van Fraassen's definition even though it can be observationally determined that the theory is false. I suggest a modification of empirical adequacy that avoids this result.
Due to the logical relations between theism and intelligent design (id), there are two challenges to theism that also apply to id. In the falsifiability challenge, it is charged that theism is compatible with every observation statement and thus asserts nothing. I argue that the contentious assumptions of this challenge can be avoided without loss of precision by charging theism (and thus id) directly with the lack of observational assertions. In the translatability challenge, it is charged that theism can be (...) translated into a (non-theistic) set of observation statements without loss of cognitive content. I argue that the contentious assumptions of this challenge are avoided by the related charge that the (non-theistic) evolutionary theory makes all the observational assertions of id, while the converse does not hold. Elliott Sober has argued that id meets the falsifiability challenge, but, since it makes almost no observational assertions, is not testable. I point out two problems with Sober’s argument and show that id is both deductively and probabilistically testable. Sober’s argument, I suggest, inconsistently combines the modified falsifiability challenge with the modified translatability challenge. If his claims about id’s observational assertions are true, however, id succumbs to the modified translatability challenge. (shrink)
Elliott Sober has suggested his criterion of contrastive testability as an improvement over previous criteria of empirical significance like falsifiability. I argue that his criterion renders almost any theory empirically significant because its restrictions on auxiliary assumptions are to weak. Even when the criterion is modified to avoid this trivialization, it fails to meet other conditions of adequacy for a criterion of empirical significance that follow from Sober's position. I suggest to define empirical significance as empirical non-equivalence to a tautology, (...) because this definition does meet the conditions of adequacy. Specifically, it is equivalent to the standard Bayesian criterion of empirical significance whenever all probabilities are defined and contains falsifiability as a special case. This latter feature is important because those conditions of adequacy that apply to criteria of deductive empirical significance single out falsifiability. (shrink)
The received view on the development of the correspondence rules in Carnap’s philosophy of science is that at first, Carnap assumed the explicit definability of all theoretical terms in observational terms and later weakened this assumption. In the end, he conjectured that all observational terms can be explicitly defined in in theoretical terms, but not vice versa. I argue that from the very beginning, Carnap implicitly held this last view, albeit at times in contradiction to his professed position. To establish (...) this point I argue that, first, Carnap’s ‘Über die Aufgabe der Physik’ is a contribution to the philosophy of science of logical empiricism, contrary to Thomas Mormann and in agreement with Herbert Feigl. Second, Michael Friedman misunderstands the ‘Aufgabe’ with his claim that it describes a method for arriving at explicit definitions for theoretical terms. Another received view on Carnap’s philosophy of science is that it assumed a formalization of physical theories that was too detached from actual physics and thus justly disavowed in favor of the semantic view as, for example, developed by van Fraassen. But the ‘Aufgabe’ and related works including the Aufbau show that from the very beginning to his last works, Carnap suggested formalizing physical theories as restrictions in mathematical spaces, as in the state-space conception of scientific theories favored by van Fraassen. (shrink)
I provide a compact reformulation of Carnap’s conditions of adequacy for the analytic and the synthetic component of a theory and show that, contrary to arguments by Winnie and Demopoulos, Carnap’s conditions of adequacy need not be supplemented by another condition. This has immediate implications for the analytic component of reduction sentences.
There are two ways of reading Newman’s objection to Russell’s structuralism. One assumes that according to Russell, our knowledge of a theory about the external world is captured by an existential generalization on all non-logical symbols of the theory. Under this reading, our knowledge amounts to a cardinality claim. Another reading assumes that our knowledge singles out a structure in Russell’s (and Newman’s) sense: a model theoretic structure that is determined up to isomorphism. Under this reading, our knowledge is far (...) from trivial, for it amounts to knowledge of the structure of the relations between objects, but not their identity. Newman’s objection is then but an expression of structural realism. Since therefore the content of theories is described by classes of structures closed under isomorphism, the most natural description of a theory in structural realism is syntactic. (shrink)
This volume has two primary aims: to trace the traditions and changes in methods, concepts, and ideas that brought forth the logical empiricists’ philosophy of physics and to present and analyze the logical empiricists’ various and occasionally contrary ideas about the physical sciences and their philosophical relevance. These original chapters discuss these developments in their original contexts and social and institutional environments, thus showing the various fruitful conceptions and philosophies behind the history of 20th-century philosophy of science. Logical Empiricism and (...) the Natural Sciences is divided into three thematic sections. Part I surveys the influences on logical empiricism’s philosophy of science and physics. It features chapters on Maxwell’s role in the worldview of logical empiricism, on Reichenbach’s account of objectivity, on the impact of Poincaré on Neurath’s early views on scientific method, Frank’s exchanges with Einstein about philosophy of physics, and on the forgotten role of Kurt Grelling. Part II focuses on specific physical theories, including Carnap’s and Reichenbach’s positions on Einstein’s theory of general relativity, Reichenbach’s critique of unified field theory, and the logical empiricists’ reactions to quantum mechanics. The third and final group of chapters widens the scope to philosophy of science and physics in general. It includes contributions on von Mises’ frequentism; Frank’s account of concept formation and confirmation; and the interrelations between Nagel’s, Feigl’s, and Hempel’s versions of logical empiricism. (shrink)
I show how omissions lead to robustness and can justify distortions, and I give inferentially relevant explications of abstraction and idealization. Abstraction is explicated as the omission of all and only those claims that use a specific vocabulary; idealization is explicated as the distortion of only those claims that use a specific vocabulary. With these explications, abstraction can justify idealization. As examples of how abstraction justifies idealization and leads to robustness, I discuss Beauchamp and Childress's four principles of biomedical ethics (...) and the qualitative treatment of the Schrödinger equation. (shrink)