What I say about theories

Fri 14 Aug 2009 03:56 PM

I just posted a new draft of my paper arguing for theory concept pluralism.

It is as good an occasion as any to comment on this blog post by Ron Giere, which I meant to comment on back in March. Giere says that the big motivation for the semantic view of theories was to better reflects how theories work in actual scientific practice. As he puts it, the aim was "getting the philosophy of science closer to the science."

I agree with the aim, but disagree with the way of getting there.

The semantic view of theories works better than the statement view at the work for which it was developed. If I were only allowed one theory concept to take with me to my metaphorical desert island, I might take the semantic theory concept. But metropolitan philosophy of science need not prepare for survival on a desert island.

If we don't accept theory concept monism, then we can accept that the semantic view is an important way to think about theories without saying that it is the way to think about theory. Actual scientific practice is complex and multifarious. The semantic conception serves in its domains and for its purposes, but staying close to the science means applying different theory concepts in other domains and for other purposes.