Journal Article

Three Views of Theoretical Knowledge

William Demopoulos

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 62, issue 1, pages 177-205
Published in print March 2011 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online December 2010 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
Three Views of Theoretical Knowledge

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Of the three views of theoretical knowledge which form the focus of this article, the first has its source in the work of Russell, the second in Ramsey, and the third in Carnap. Although very different, all three views subscribe to a principle I formulate as ‘the structuralist thesis’; they are also naturally expressed using the concept of a Ramsey sentence. I distinguish the framework of assumptions which give rise to the structuralist thesis from an unproblematic emphasis on the importance of ‘structural’ differences for the analysis and interpretation of theories belonging to the exact sciences, and I review a number of logical properties of Ramsey sentences using very simple arithmetical theories and their models. I then develop a reconstruction of the views of Russell, Ramsey, and Carnap that clarifies the interrelationships among them by appealing to aspects of the arithmetical examples that inform my discussion of Ramsey sentences. I conclude with an account of the philosophical basis of the structuralist thesis and the fundamental difficulty to which it leads.

1 Introduction

2 Ramsey Sentences and Craig Transcriptions

3 Ramsey Sentences and the Applications of a Theory

4 Extensions and Expansions of Models and Russell’s Structuralism

5 Ramsey on Theories

6 Carnap’s Synthesis

7 The Structuralist Thesis

Journal Article.  12985 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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