Structures in Real Theory Application: A Study in Feasible Epistemology

Dissertation, University of Western Ontario (2013)
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This thesis considers the following problem: What methods should the epistemology of science use to gain insight into the structure and behaviour of scientific knowledge and method in actual scientific practice? After arguing that the elucidation of epistemological and methodological phenomena in science requires a method that is rooted in formal methods, I consider two alternative methods for epistemology of science. One approach is the classical approaches of the syntactic and semantic views of theories. I show that typical approaches of this sort are inadequate and inaccurate in their representation of scientific knowledge by showing how they fail to account for and misrepresent important epistemological structure and behaviour in science. The other method for epistemology of science I consider is modeled on the methods used to construct valid models of natural phenomena in applied mathematics. This new epistemological method is itself a modeling method that is developed through the detailed consideration of two main examples of theory application in science: double pendulum systems and the modeling of near-Earth objects to compute probability of future Earth impact. I show that not only does this new method accurately represent actual methods used to apply theories in applied mathematics, it also reveals interesting structural and behavioural patterns in the application process and gives insight into what underlies the stability of methods of application. I therefore conclude that for epistemology of science to develop fully as a scientific discipline it must use methods from applied mathematics, not only methods from pure mathematics and metamathematics as traditional formal epistemology of science has done.

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Robert H. C. Moir
University of Western Ontario


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