On the Aim of Scientific Theories in Relating to the World: A Defence of the Semantic Account

Dialogue 29 (3):323- (1990)
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According to the received view of scientific theories, a scientific theory is an axiomatic-deductive linguistic structure which must include some set of guidelines (“correspondence rules”) for interpreting its theoretical terms with reference to the world of observable phenomena. According to the semantic view, a scientific theory need not be formulated as an axiomatic-deductive structure with correspondence rules, but need only specify models which are said to be “isomorphic” with actual phenomenal systems. In this paper, I consider both the received and semantic views as they bear on the issue of how a theory relates to the world (Section 1). Then I offer a critique of some arguments frequently put forth in support of the semantic view (Section 2). Finally, I suggest a more convincing “meta-methodological” argument (based on the thought of Bernard Lonergan) in favor of the semantic view (Section 3).
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