Semantic approaches in the philosophy of science

South African Journal of Philosophy 18 (2):100-148 (1999)
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In this article I give an overview of some recent work in philosophy of science dedicated to analysing the scientific process in terms of (conceptual) mathematical models of theories and the various semantic relations between such models, scientific theories, and aspects of reality. In current philosophy of science, the most interesting questions centre around the ways in which writers distinguish between theories and the mathematical structures that interpret them and in which they are true, i.e. between scientific theories as linguistic systems and their non-linguistic models. In philosophy of science literature there are two main approaches to the structure of scientific theories, the statement or syntactic approach -- advocated by Carnap, Hempel and Nagel -- and the non- statement or semantic approach --advocated, among others, by Suppes, the structuralists, Beth, Van Fraassen, Giere, Wojcicki. In conclusion, I briefly review some of the usual realist inspired questions about the possibility and character of relations between scientific theories and reality as implied by the various approaches I discuss in the course of the article. The models of a scientific theory should indeed be adequate to the phenomena, but if the theory is 'adequate' to (true in) its conceptual (mathematical) models as well, we have a model-theoretic realism that addresses the possible meaning and reference of 'theoretical entities' without relapsing into the metaphysics typical of the usual scientific realist approaches
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