Archive for September, 2016

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“The collector, the detective, and the healer” (9/22/16)

September 22, 2016

Shahin Kaveh

Abstract: There have been two broad families of views in philosophy of science
regarding what a scientific theory provides. “The collector view”,
associated with logical empiricism, demands that the scientific theory
be reduced to its implications in a clean language of observation.
“The detective view”, on the other hand, demands that the theory be
understood as a narrative — a story about what was there, what
properties and relations it had, what it did, and why. While there is
lots of disagreement about which parts of the narrative, if any, we
are licensed and/or compelled to believe (the realism debate), the
demise of logical empiricism seems to have brought about unanimous
agreement on the detective view among realists and antirealists alike.
I would like to propose a third alternative (“the healer view”) which
rejects narratives without resorting to any assumption regarding the
existence of an observable-unobservable distinction or the possibility
of semantic reduction. Roughly, the idea is that a mature physical
theory aims to provide necessary and sufficient prescriptions for
reproducing things. My physicist is neither a collector nor a
detective, but a healer.

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