Philosophy of Mind and the Semantic View of Theories
Klein (Colin)
Source: New Waves in Philosophy of Mind, Online Conference, 3rd-17th December 2012
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

    Many debates in philosophy of mind assume that the predicates used in our best explanations are a guide to the psychological ontology we ought to adopt. I argue first that many of the intuitions used to support this ontologically committal stance can be accounted for by appeal to conversational pragmatics. On this alternate view, I show that intuitions in favor of, e.g., higher-level causation1 can be explained without appeal to higher-level causes. I then argue that the ontologically committal view relies on an axiomatic view of theories, on which scientific theories are identified with sets of laws formulated using a canonical set of predicates. Though once popular, this view of theories has been largely abandoned by philosophers of science. The most popular current contender is the semantic view, on which scientific theories are best understood as sets of models that indirectly represent target phenomena. The semantic view of theories differs from the older received view in several crucial aspects. Importantly, I argue, it breaks the link between the language in which we give explanations and the ontological structure of the world: our best explanations need not commit us to properties corresponding to the predicates used within them.

Sections
  1. Introduction
    … 1.1 Explanatory Literalism
    … 1.2 Explanatory Agnosticism
    … 1.3 The Plan
  2. Agnosticism and Derived Quantities
    … 2.1 Derived Quantities
    … 2.2 The Problem for Literalism
    … 2.3 Informativeness no Help
  3. A Diagnosis
    … 3.1 Literalism and the Axiomatic View
    … 3.2 The Semantic View of Theories
  4. Going Further

Comment:

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