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A Generalized Patchwork to Scientific Concepts

Haueis, Philipp (2021) A Generalized Patchwork to Scientific Concepts. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Polysemous concepts with multiple related meanings pervade natural languages, yet some philosophers argue that we should eliminate them to avoid miscommunication and pointless debates in scientific discourse. This paper defends the legitimacy of polysemous concepts in science against this eliminativist challenge. My approach analyses such concepts as patch-works with multiple scale-dependent, technique-involving, domain-specific and property-targeting uses (patches). I demonstrate the generality of my approach by applying it to "hard-ness" in materials science, "homology" in evolutionary biology, "gold" in chemistry and "cor-tical column" in neuroscience. Such patchwork concepts are legitimate if the techniques used to apply them produce reliable results, the domains to which they are applied are homogenous, and the properties they refer to are significant to describe, classify or explain the behavior of entities in the extension of the concept. By following these normative constraints, researchers can avoid miscommunication and pointless debates without having to eliminate polysemous patchwork concepts in scientific discourse.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Haueis, Philippphilipp.haueis@uni-bielefeld.de0000-0002-0935-9015
Keywords: Concepts, Polysemy, Patchwork Concepts, Eliminativism, Pluralism
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science > Concepts and Representations
General Issues > Natural Kinds
General Issues > Operationalism/Instrumentalism
General Issues > Structure of Theories
General Issues > Theory Change
Depositing User: Dr. Philipp Haueis
Date Deposited: 09 Jul 2021 15:01
Last Modified: 09 Jul 2021 15:01
Item ID: 19297
Official URL: https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/7161...
DOI or Unique Handle: https://doi.org/10.1086/716179
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science > Concepts and Representations
General Issues > Natural Kinds
General Issues > Operationalism/Instrumentalism
General Issues > Structure of Theories
General Issues > Theory Change
Date: 23 June 2021
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/19297

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