Ramsey sentence

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The sentence generated by taking all the sentences affirmed in a scientific theory that use some term (e.g. ‘quark’), replacing the term by a variable, and existentially quantifying into the result. Instead of saying that quarks have such-and-such properties, the Ramsey sentence says that there is something that has those properties. If the process is repeated for all of a group of the theoretical terms, the sentence gives the ‘topic-neutral’ structure of the theory, but removes any implication that we know what the terms so treated denote. It leaves open the possibility of identifying the theoretical item with whatever it is that best fits the description provided. However it was pointed out by the Cambridge mathematician Newman that if the process is carried out for all except the logical bones of a theory, then by the Löwenheim-Skolem theorem, the result will be interpretable in any domain of sufficient cardinality, and the content of the theory may reasonably be felt to have been lost.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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