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Schematizing the Observer and the Epistemic Content of Theories

Curiel, Erik (2019) Schematizing the Observer and the Epistemic Content of Theories. [Preprint]

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Abstract

I argue that, contrary to the standard view, one cannot understand
the structure and nature of our knowledge in physics without an
analysis of the way that observers (and, more generally, measuring
instruments and experimental arrangements) are modeled in theory.
One upshot is that standard pictures of what a scientific theory can
be are grossly inadequate. In particular, standard formulations
assume, with no argument ever given, that it is possible to make a
clean separation between, on the one hand, one part of the
scientific knowledge a physical theory embodies, viz., that
encoded in the pure mathematical formalism and, on the other, the
remainder of that knowledge. The remainder includes at a minimum
what is encoded in the practice of modeling particular systems, of
performing experiments, of bringing the results of theory and
experiment into mutually fruitful contact---in sum, real application
of the theory in actual scientific practice. This assumption comes
out most clearly in the picture of semantics that naturally
accompanies the standard view of theories: semantics is fixed by
ontology's shining City on the Hill, and all epistemology and
methodology and other practical issues and considerations are
segregated to the ghetto of the theory's pragmatics. We should not
assume such a clean separation is possible without an argument, and,
indeed, I offer many arguments that such a separation is not
feasible. An adequate semantics for theories cannot be founded on
ontology, but rather on epistemology and methodology.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Curiel, Erikerik@strangebeautiful.com0000-0002-5812-3033
Keywords: theory semantics; theory structure; models; epistemology; general relativity; Navier-Stokes Theory
Subjects: General Issues > Data
Specific Sciences > Physics > Classical Physics
General Issues > Experimentation
General Issues > Models and Idealization
Specific Sciences > Physics > Relativity Theory
Specific Sciences > Physics > Statistical Mechanics/Thermodynamics
General Issues > Structure of Theories
General Issues > Theory/Observation
Depositing User: Dr. Erik Curiel
Date Deposited: 07 Mar 2019 04:57
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2019 04:57
Item ID: 15802
Subjects: General Issues > Data
Specific Sciences > Physics > Classical Physics
General Issues > Experimentation
General Issues > Models and Idealization
Specific Sciences > Physics > Relativity Theory
Specific Sciences > Physics > Statistical Mechanics/Thermodynamics
General Issues > Structure of Theories
General Issues > Theory/Observation
Date: March 2019
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/15802

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