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Scientific RepresentationParadoxes of Perspective$
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Bas C. van Fraassen

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199278220

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199278220.001.0001

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An Empiricist Structuralism

An Empiricist Structuralism

(p.237) 11 An Empiricist Structuralism
Scientific Representation

Bas C. van Fraassen

Oxford University Press

The mechanization and mathematization of the world-picture in modern science has a rightful claim upon us to develop views of science that do justice to its revolutionary impact on the sciences themselves. This claim is honoured in the century-long attempts to develop structuralist views of science, the recurrent defeats of such views notwithstanding. It is argued that the defeats were not inevitable. The structuralism here developed however, as a view of science rather than a view of nature, can find its proper articulation only in an empiricist setting. Essential to an empiricist structuralism is the following core construal of the slogan that all we know is structure: (I) Science represents the empirical phenomena as embeddable in certain abstract structures (theoretical models); (II) Those abstract structures are describable only up to structural isomorphism. This faces at once the Weyl's paradox introduced in Chapter 8; but the lessons concerning indexicality learned from the cases of Russell, Carnap, and Putnam show the way out of the paradox.

Keywords:   empiricism, structuralism, structural realism, Russell, Carnap, Putman, data model, mathematization

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