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An Empiricist Criterion of Meaning

Benétreau-Dupin, Yann (2011) An Empiricist Criterion of Meaning. [Preprint]

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    Abstract

    The meaning of scientific propositions is not always expressible in terms of observable phenomena. Such propositions involve generalizations, and also terms that are theoretical constructs. I study here how to assess the meaning of scientific propositions, that is, the specific import of theoretical terms. Empiricists have expressed a concern that scientific propositions, and theoretical terms, should always be, to some degree, related to observable consequences. We can see that the former empiricist criterion of meaning only implies for theoretical terms not to be definable in terms of observable, but that their use put a constraint on the observable consequences of a theory. To that effect, Ramsey's method of formal elimination of theoretical terms can be an interesting tool. It has faced important logical objections, which have mostly been addressed with respect to the problem of the ontological commitment of the second-order quantification they imply. I show here that these criticisms can be overcome, and that there can be a successful Ramsey elimination of theoretical terms with first order sentences, making Ramsey's method a relevant tool to assess the empirical meaning of scientific propositions.


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    Item Type: Preprint
    Additional Information: Forthcoming in South African Journal of Philosophy 30 (4)
    Keywords: Ramsey-sentences, IF logic, theoretical terms, realism
    Subjects: General Issues > Logical Positivism/Logical Empiricism
    General Issues > Operationalism/Instrumentalism
    General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
    General Issues > Theory/Observation
    Depositing User: Mr. Yann Benétreau-Dupin
    Date Deposited: 12 Jun 2011 09:17
    Last Modified: 12 Jun 2011 09:17
    Item ID: 8666
    URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/8666

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