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On Theories

Logical Empiricism and the Methodology of Modern Physics

William Demopoulos Michael Friedman



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Harvard Uni.Press Academi
15 February 2022
A renowned philosopher's final work, illuminating how the logical empiricist tradition has failed to appreciate the role of actual experiments in forming its philosophy of science.

The logical empiricist treatment of physics dominated twentieth-century philosophy of science. But the logical empiricist tradition, for all it accomplished, does not do justice to the way in which empirical evidence functions in modern physics.

In his final work, the late philosopher of science William Demopoulos contends that philosophers have failed to provide an adequate epistemology of science because they have failed to appreciate the tightly woven character of theory and evidence. As a consequence, theory comes apart from evidence. This trouble is nowhere more evident than in theorizing about particle and quantum physics. Arguing that we must consider actual experiments as they have unfolded across history, Demopoulos provides a new epistemology of theories and evidence, albeit one that stands on the shoulders of giants.

On Theories finds clarity in Isaac Newton's suspicion of mere hypotheses. Newton's methodology lies in the background of Jean Perrin's experimental investigations of molecular reality and of the subatomic investigations of J. J. Thomson and Robert Millikan. Demopoulos extends this account to offer novel insights into the distinctive nature of quantum reality, where a logico-mathematical reconstruction of Bohrian complementarity meets John Stewart Bell's empirical analysis of Einstein's local realism. On Theories ultimately provides a new interpretation of quantum probabilities as themselves objectively representing empirical reality.
Edited by:  
Imprint:   Harvard Uni.Press Academi
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 210mm,  Width: 140mm, 
ISBN:   9780674237575
ISBN 10:   0674237579
Pages:   272
Publication Date:  
Audience:   Professional and scholarly ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

William Demopoulos (1943-2017), editor of Frege's Philosophy of Mathematics and author of Logicism and Its Philosophical Legacy, spent nearly four decades as Professor of Philosophy at the University of Western Ontario. Michael Friedman is Patrick Suppes Professor of Philosophy of Science at Stanford University.

Reviews for On Theories: Logical Empiricism and the Methodology of Modern Physics

On Theories, a painstaking analysis of the seemingly straightforward concept of theory, takes us on an exciting journey through twentieth-century science and philosophy of science. It critiques naive dogmas such as the theory/observation dichotomy, replacing them with a nuanced account centered on the notion of 'theory-mediated measurement.' On the basis of this account, Demopoulos offers a novel interpretation of major breakthroughs in classical as well as quantum mechanics. Meticulous in its historical analysis and compelling in its philosophical argument, On Theories is a must for anyone interested in science and its method. -- Yemima Ben-Menahem, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem Demopoulos wrote 'for the eye of God and the good of my soul,' as he used to say. On Theories is a stunning achievement, a profound argument for a novel thesis about the nature of truth in scientific theories, ranging from case studies about our understanding of molecular reality to Bohr's dispute with Einstein about quantum reality. -- Jeffrey Bub, University of Maryland

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