INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE
Book I Page 4
3.35 Ontological Dimension
Semantics is description of reality; ontology is reality as described and thus revealed by semantics.
Ontology is the aspects of mind-independent reality that are signified and thus revealed by relativized perspectivist semantics.
Ontology is the metalinguistic dimension after syntax and semantics, and it presumes both of them. It is the reality that is signified by semantics. Semantically interpreted syntax describes ontology most realistically, when a statement is warranted empirically by independently repeated nonfalsifying test outcomes. Thus in science ontology is more adequately realistic, when described by the semantics of either a scientific law or an observation report having its semantics defined by a law. The semantics of falsified theories display ontology less realistically due to the falsified theories’ demonstrated lesser empirical adequacy.
3.36 Metaphysical and Scientific Realism
Metaphysical realism is the thesis that there exists mind-independent reality, which is accessible to and accessed by human cognition.
Scientists believe prejudicially that their explanations describe reality, and their prejudice is neither wrong nor stupid; indeed it is typically integral to their motivation to practice basic research. Nonrealism (or “antirealism”) is an indulgence of frivolous academic philosophers. Such philosophers have spilt much wasted ink arguing over realism and its alternatives.
The thesis of metaphysical realism is the recognition that there exists determinate mind-independent reality responsible both for falsifying scientific theories in empirical tests and for producing everyday surprises. For example by our empirical testing it informs us that microphysical reality is as the falsifiable indeterminacy relations of quantum theory say it is, and not arbitrarily otherwise.
The phrase “metaphysical realism” does not mean a characterization of reality as some super ontology that can be described with some all-encompassing “God’s-eye view”. The phrase “metaphysical realism” refers to all reality, but it is not a descriptive phrase; the thesis is transcendental to all ontologies and signifies none. Thus it cannot be relative, because there is nothing to which it can relate, and to say “everything is relative” is to issue a well known self-contradictory paradox.
In the section titled “Is There Any Justification for External Realism” in his Mind, Language and Society: Philosophy in the Real World (1995) University of California realistic philosopher John R. Searle (1932) refers to metaphysical realism as “external realism”, by which he means that the world exists independently of our representations of it. He says that realism does not say how things are, but only that there is a way that they are.
Searle denies that external realism can be justified, because any attempt at justification presupposes what it attempts to justify. In other words all arguments for metaphysical realism are circular, because realism must firstly be accepted. Any attempt to find out about the real world presupposes that there is a way that things are. He also affirms the picture of science as giving us knowledge of independently existing reality, knowledge that is taken for granted in the sciences.
Similarly in “Scope and Language of Science” in Ways of Paradox (1976) Harvard University realistic philosopher Quine writes that we cannot significantly question the reality of the external world or deny that there is evidence of external objects in the testimony of our senses, because to do so is to dissociate the terms “reality” and “evidence” from the very application that originally did most to invest these terms with whatever intelligibility they may have for us. And to emphasize the primal origin of realism Quine prosaically writes that we imbibe this primordial awareness “with our mother’s milk”. He thus affirms what he calls his “unregenerate realism”. These statements by Searle, Quine and others of their ilk are not logical arguments or inferences; they are simply affirmations.
And Martin Heidegger (1889-1970) too recognized that the problem of the reality of the external world is a pseudo problem. He notes that while for Kant the scandal of philosophy is that no proof has yet been given of the existence of things outside of us, for Heidegger the scandal is not that this proof has yet to be given, but that any such proof is attempted and that it is even expected.
Hickey joins these realistic philosophers. He maintains that metaphysical realism, the thesis that there exists self-evident mind-independent reality accessible to and accessed by cognition, is the “primal prejudice” that cannot be proved or disproved but can only be affirmed or denied. Mind-independent reality is not Kant’s ineffable reality, but rather is the very effable reality revealed by our perspectivist semantics as ontologies. And he affirms that the primal prejudice is a correct and universal prejudice, even though there are delusional psychotics and sophistic academics that are in denial.
Contrary to Descartes and latter-day rationalists, metaphysical realism is neither a conclusion nor an inference nor an extrapolation. It cannot be proved logically, established by philosophy or science, validated or justified in any discursive manner including figures of speech such as analogy or metaphor. Its self-evident character makes it antecedent to any such discursive movements by the mind, and it is therefore fundamentally prejudicial. Hickey regards misguided pedantics who say otherwise as “closet Cartesians”, because they never admit that they are academic atavisms. The imposing, intruding, recalcitrant, obdurate otherness of mind-independent reality is immediately self-evident at the dawn of a person’s consciousness; it is the most rudimentary experience. Bats, cats, gnats, rats, and all other sentient creatures that have survived Darwinian predatory reality are infra-articulate and nonreflective realists in their apprehensions of their environmental realities. To dispute realism is to step through the looking glass into Alice’s labyrinth of logomanchy, of metaphysical jabberwocky where as Schopenhauer believed the world is but a dream. It is to indulge in the academic philosophers’ hallucinatory escapist narcotic.
After stating that the notion of reality independent of language is in our earliest impressions, Quine adds that it is then carried over into science as a matter of course. He says realism is the robust state of mind of the scientist, who has never felt any qualms beyond the negotiable uncertainties internal to his science.
Scientific realism is the thesis that a tested and currently nonfalsified theory is the most empirically adequate, truest and thus most realistic description of ontology known at the current time.
N.B. Contrary to Feyerabend the phrase “scientific realism” does not mean scientism, the thesis that only science describes reality.
3.37 Ontological Relativity Defined
When metaphysical realism is joined with relativized perspectivist semantics, the result is ontological relativity.
Ontological relativity in science is the thesis that the relativized and thus perspectivist semantics of a theory or law and its descriptive terms reveal aspects of mind-independent reality.
The ontology of any theory or law is as realistic as it is empirically adequate.
Understanding scientific realism requires consideration of ontological relativity. Ontological relativity is the subordination of ontological decisions to empiricism. We cannot separate ontology from semantics, because we cannot step outside of our knowledge and compare our knowledge with reality, in order to validate a correspondence. But we can distinguish our semantics from the ontology it reveals, as we do for example, when we distinguish logical and real suppositions respectively in statements. We describe mind-independent reality with our relativized perspectivist semantics, and ontology is reality as it is thus revealed empirically more or less adequately by our semantics. All semantics has ontological significance and is objective. The ancient opposition of appearances and reality is a pernicious philosophical fallacy; appearances are revelations of reality and they display ontologies. Our semantics and ontologies cannot be exhaustive. Ontologies are more or less adequately realistic, as the semantics describing them are demonstrated to be more or less adequately empirical. In institutionally well-functioning basic science, scientific laws and explanations yield the most adequately empirical perspectives available at the time.
Prior to the evolution of contemporary realistic neopragmatism philosophers had identified realism as such with one or another particular ontology, which they erroneously viewed as the only ontology on the assumption that there can be only one ontology. Such is the error made by some physicists who believe that they are defending realism, when they defend Bohm’s “hidden variable” interpretation of quantum theory. Such too is the error in Popper’s proposal for his propensity interpretation of quantum theory and Schrödinger’s pilot wave interpretation. Similarly contrary to Einstein’s EPR thesis of a single uniform ontology for physics, Aspect, Dalibard and Roger’s findings from their 1982 nonlocality experiments empirically demonstrated entanglement and thus validated the Copenhagen interpretation’s semantics and ontology.
Advancing science has produced revolutionary changes. And as the advancement of science has produced new theories with new semantics exhibiting new ontologies, some prepragmatist scientists and philosophers found themselves attacking a new theory and defending an old theory, because they had identified realism with the ontology associated with the older falsified theory. Such a perversion of scientific criticism is still common in the social sciences where romantic ontologies are invoked as criteria for criticism.
With ontological relativity realism is no longer uniquely associated with any one particular ontology. The ontological-relativity thesis does not deny metaphysical realism, but depends on it. It distinguishes the mind-independent plenum of existence from the ontologies revealed by the perspectivist semantics of more or less empirically adequate beliefs. Ontological relativity enables admitting change of ontology without lapsing into instrumentalism, idealism, phenomenalism, solipsism, any of the several varieties of antirealism, or any other such denial of metaphysical realism.
Thus ontological relativity solves the modern problem of reconciling conceptual revision in science with metaphysical realism. Ontological relativity enables acknowledging the creative variability of knowledge operative in the relativized semantics and consequently mind-dependent ontologies that are defined in constructed laws and theories, while at the same time acknowledging the regulative discipline of mind-independent reality operative in the empirical constraint in tests with their possibly falsifying outcomes.
In summary, in contemporary realistic neopragmatist philosophy metaphysical realism is logically prior to and presumed by all ontologies by the primal prejudice, while the choice of an ontology is based upon the empirically demonstrated adequacy of the semantics describing the ontology. Indulging in futile disputations about metaphysical realism will not enhance achievement of the aims of either science or philosophy, nor will dismissing such disputations encumber achieving those aims. Ontological relativity leaves ontological decisions to the scientist rather than to the metaphysician. And the superior empirical adequacy of a new law yields the increased truth of the new law and the increased realism in the ontology that the new law reveals.
3.38 Ontological Relativity Illustrated
There is no semantically interpreted syntax that does not reveal some more or less realistic ontology. Since all semantics is relativized, is part of the linguistic system, and ultimately comes from sense stimuli, no semantically interpreted syntax – not even the description of a hallucination – is utterly devoid of ontological significance.
To illustrate ontological relativity consider the semantical decision about white crows mentioned in the above discussion about componential artifactual semantics (See above, Section 3.23). The decision is ontological as well as semantical. For the bird watcher who found a white but otherwise crow-looking bird and decides to reject the belief “Every crow is black”, the phrase “white crow” becomes a description for a type of existing birds. Once that semantical decision is made, white crows suddenly populate many trees in the world however long ago Darwinian Mother Nature had evolved the observed avian creatures. But if his decision is to persist in believing “Every crow is black”, then there are no white crows in existence, because whatever kind of creature the bird watcher found and that Darwinian Mother Nature had long ago evolved, the white bird is not a crow. The bird watcher caught something, and his characterization of what it is in reality is a product of his semantical and ontological decisions. The availability of the choice illustrates the artifactuality of the relativized perspectivist semantics of language and of the consequently relativized ontology that the relativized perspectivist semantics reveals about mind-independent reality.
Relativized semantics makes ontology no less relative whether the affirmed entity is an elephant, an electron, or an elf. Beliefs that enable us routinely to make successful predictions are deemed more empirically adequate and thus more realistic and truer than those less successfully predictive. And we recognize the reality of the entities, attributes or any other characteristics that enable those routinely successful predicting beliefs. Thus if the postulate of mischievous elves jinxing magically with evil eyes enabled predicting the collapse of a market-price bubble on Wall Street more accurately and reliably than the postulate of euphoric humans gambling greedily with borrowed money, then we would decide that the ontology of mischievous elves is as adequately realistic as it was found to be adequately empirical, and we would busy ourselves investigating elves, as we do with elephants and electrons for successful predictions about elephants and electrons. On the other hand were our price-collapse predictions to fail, as they nearly always do, then those failures would inform us that our belief in the mischievous elves of Wall Street is as empirically inadequate as the discredited belief in the legendary gnomes of Zürich that are reputed to manipulate currency valuations ruinous to the wealth of nations, and we would decide that the ontology of mischievous elves is as inadequately realistic, as it is inadequately empirical.
Consider another illustration. Today we reject an ontology of illnesses due to possessing demons as inadequately realistic, because we do not find ontological claims about possessing demons to be empirically adequate for effective medical practice. But it could have been like the semantics of “atom”. The semantics and ontology of “atom” have evolved greatly since the days of the ancient philosophers Leucippus (480-420 BCE) and Democritus (460-370 BCE). The semantics of “atom” has since been revised repeatedly under the regulation of empirical research in physics, as when George J. Stony (1826-1911) concluded that the atom is not simple as the ancients had thought and 1906 Nobel-laureate J.J. Thomson (1892-1975) discovered that the atom has an internal structure. Thus today we still accept a semantics and ontology of atoms.
Similarly the semantics of “demon” might too have been revised to become as beneficial as the modern meaning of “bacterium”, had empirical testing regulated an evolving semantics and ontology of “demon”. Both ancient and modern physicians may observe and describe some of the same symptoms for a certain disease in a sick patient, and both demons and bacteria are viewed as living agents thus giving some continuity to the semantics and ontology of “demon” through the ages. If the semantics and ontology of “demon” had been revised under the regulation of increasing empirical adequacy, then today scientists might materialize (i.e., visualize) demons with microscopes, physicians might write incantations (i.e., prescriptions), and pharmacists might dispense antidemonics (i.e., antibiotics) to exorcise (i.e., to cure) possessed (i.e., infected) sick persons. But then terms such as “materialize”, “incantation”, “antidemonics”, “exorcise” and “possessed” would also have acquired new semantics in the more empirically adequate modern contexts than those of ancient medical beliefs. And the descriptive semantics and ontology of “demon” would have been revised to exclude what we now find empirically to be inadequately realistic, such as a disease-causing demon’s willful malevolence.
This thesis can be found in Quine’s “Two Dogmas of Empiricism” (1952) in his Logical Point of View (1953) even before he came to call it “ontological relativity” sixteen years later. There he says that physical objects are conceptually imported into the linguistic system as convenient intermediaries, as irreducible posits comparable epistemologically to the gods of Homer. But physical objects are epistemologically superior to other posits including the gods of Homer, because the former have proved to be more efficacious as a device for working a manageable structure into the flux of experience. And Quine the realistic might have added explicitly that experience is experience of something, and that physical objects are more efficacious than whimsical gods for making correct predictions.
Or consider the tooth-fairy ontology. In some cultures young children losing their first set of teeth are told that if they place a lost tooth under the pillow at bedtime, an invisible tooth-fairy person having large butterfly wings will exchange the tooth for a coin as they sleep. The boy who does so and routinely finds a coin the next morning, has an empirically warranted belief in the semantics describing an invisible winged person that leaves coins under pillows and is called a “tooth fairy”. This belief is no less empirical than belief in the semantics positing an invisible force that pulls apples from their trees to the ground and is called “gravity”. But should the child forget to advise his mother that he placed a recently lost tooth under his pillow, he will rise the next morning to find no coin. The boy’s situation is complicated, because the concept of tooth fairy is not altogether unrealistic; no semantically interpreted syntax is utterly devoid of ontological significance. In this case the boy has previously seen insects with butterfly wings, and there was definitely someone who swapped coins for lost teeth on previous nights. Yet the tooth fairy’s recent nondelivery of a coin has given him reason to be suspicious about the degree of realism in the tooth fairy ontology.
Thus like the bird watcher with a white crow-looking bird, the boy has semantical and ontological choices. He may continue to define “tooth fairy” as a benefactor other than his mother, and reject the tooth-fairy semantics and ontology as inadequately realistic to explain midnight coin-for-tooth swapping. Or like the ancient astronomers who concluded that the morning star and the evening star are the same luminary and not stellar, he may revise his semantics of “tooth fairy” to conclude that his mother and the tooth fairy are the same benefactor and not winged. But later when he publicly calls his mother “tooth fairy”, he will likely be encouraged to revise this semantics of “tooth fairy” again, and to accept the more conventional semantics and ontology that excludes tooth fairies, as modern physicians exclude willfully malevolent demons. This sociology of knowledge and ontology has been insightfully examined by the sociologists of knowledge Peter Berger (1929-2017) and Thomas Luckmann (1927-2016) in The Social Construction of Reality (1966).
Or consider ontological relativity in fictional literature. “Fictional ontology” is an oxymoron. But fictional literature resembles metaphor, because its discourse is recognized as having both true and false aspects (See above, Section 3.27). For fictional literature the reader views as true the parts of the text that he finds reveals reality adequately, and the reader excludes as untrue the parts that he views critically and finds to be inadequately realistic. For example readers know that Huckelbery Finn is a fictitious creation of Samuel Clemens (1835-1910), a.k.a. Mark Twain, but they also know that white teenagers with Huck’s racist views existed in early nineteenth-century antebellum Southern United States. Sympathetic readers, who believe Twain’s portrayal of the slavery ontology, recognize an ontology that is realistic about the injustices of the racist antebellum South. And initially unsympathetic readers who upon reading Twain’s portrayal of Huck’s dawning awareness of fugitive black slave Jim’s humanity notwithstanding Huck’s racist upbringing, may thus be led to accept the more realistic ontology of black persons that is without the dehumanizing fallacies of racism. Ontological relativity enables recognition that such reconceptualization can reveal a more realistic ontology not only in science but in all discourse including even fiction.
Getting back to science, consider the Eddington eclipse test of Einstein’s relativity theory mentioned above in the discussion of componential semantics (See above, Section 3.22). That historic astronomical test is often said to have “falsified” Newton’s theory. Yet today the engineers of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (a.k.a. NASA) routinely use Newton’s physics to navigate interplanetary rocket flights through our solar system. Thus it must be said that Newton’s “falsified” theory is not completely false or unrealistic, or else neither NASA nor anyone else could ever have used it. Therefore the Newtonian ontology must be realistic, but it is now known to be less realistic, i.e., more empirically underdetermined than the Einsteinian ontology, because the former has been demonstrated to be less empirically adequate.
Cause and effect are ontological categories, which in science can be described by tested and nonfalsified nontruth-functional hypothetical-conditional statements thus having the status of laws. The nontruth-functional hypothetical-conditional law statement describing a causal dependency is expressible as a logically universally quantified empirical statement indicated by observed empirical correlation, and is therefore always vulnerable to future falsification. Ontological relativity implies that a statement’s demonstrated empirical adequacy warrants belief in its ontological claim of causality, even when the relation is stochastic. Nonfalsification does not merely make the statement affirm a Humean constant psychological conjunction.
Correlation is often distinguished from causality, as when two correlated variables are caused by a third correlated variable. The third and causal factor is detected by empirical testing in which falsification is a breakdown in the correlation in the initially observed correlated pair.
Causality is often wrongly conceived as necessarily a unidirectional influence. But reciprocal causality is revealed by correlations, which are routinely displayed by simultaneous-equation systems and by recursive longitudinal models with negative or positive feedback relations.
3.40 Ontology of Mathematical Language
In the categorical proposition the logically quantified subject term references individuals and describes the attributes that enable identifying the referenced individuals, while the predicate term describes only attributes without referencing the instantiated individuals manifesting the attributes. The referenced real entities and their semantically signified real attributes constitute the ontology described by the categorical proposition that is believed to be true due to its experimentally or otherwise observationally demonstrated empirical adequacy. These existential conditions are expressed explicitly in the categorical proposition by the copula term “is” as in “Every crow is black”.
However, the ontological claim made by the mathematical equation in science is not only about instantiated individuals or their attributes. The individual instances referenced by the descriptive variables in the empirical mathematical expression are also instances of individual measurement results that are magnitudes determined by comparison with some standard, which are acquired by executing measurement procedures yielding numeric values for the descriptive variables. The individual measurement results are related to the measured reality by nonmathematical language, which includes description of the measured subject, the chosen metric, the measurement procedures, and any employed apparatus, all of which are included in a test design.
Also calculated and predicted values for descriptive variables describing effects in equations with measurement values for other variables describing causal factors, make ontological claims that are tested empirically. Untested theories make relatively more hypothetical quantitative causal claims. Tested and nonfalsified empirical equations are quantitative causal laws, unless and until they are eventually falsified.
3.41 Pragmatic Dimension
Pragmatics is the uses or functions of language. The pragmatics of basic research in science is theory construction and empirical testing, in order to produce laws for test designs and explanations.
Pragmatics is the metalinguistic dimension after syntax, semantics and ontology, and it presupposes all of them. The regulating pragmatics of basic science is set forth in the statement of the aim of science, namely to create explanations containing scientific laws by development and empirical testing theories, which are deemed laws when not falsified by the currently most critically empirical test. Explanations and laws are accomplished science, while theories and tests are work in progress at the frontier of basic research. Understanding the pragmatics of science requires understanding theory development and testing.
3.42 Semantic Definitions of Theory Language
For the extinct neopositivist philosophers the term “theory” referred to universally quantified sentences containing “theoretical terms” that reference unobserved phenomena or entities.
The nineteenth-century early positivists such as the physicist Ernst Mach rejected theory, especially the atomic theory of matter in physics, because atoms were deemed unobservable. These early positivist philosophers’ idea of discovery consisted of induction, which yields empirical generalizations containing only observation terms rather than theories containing theoretical terms.
Later the twentieth-century neopositivists, who were nominalists, believed that they could validate the meaningfulness of theoretical terms referencing unobserved microphysical particles such as electrons, and thus admit theories as valid science. For discovery of theories they invoked human creativity but offered no description of the processes of theory creation.
These neopositivists also viewed Newton’s physics as paradigmatic of theoretical science. They therefore also construed “theory” to mean an axiomatic system, because Kepler’s laws of orbital motion can be derived deductively as theorems from Newton’s inverse-square principle.
For the atavistic romantic philosophers and the anachronistic romantic social scientists “theory” means language describing intersubjectively experienced mental states such as ideas and motivations that are deemed to be “causes” of “human actions”.
Many romantics still portray the theory-creation process as consisting firstly of introspection by the theorist upon his own personal intersubjective experiences or his imagination. Then secondly it consists of the theorist imputing his introspectively experienced ideas and motives to the social members under investigation. The sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920) called this process verstehen. When the social scientist can recognize or at least imagine the imputed ideas and motives, then the ideas and motives expressed by his theory are “convincing” to him, even if his theory is empirically inadequate.
3.43 Pragmatic Definition of Theory Language
Scientific theories are universally quantified language that can be expressed as nontruth-functional hypothetical-conditional statements including mathematical expressions (a.k.a. “models”) that are proposed for empirical testing.
Unlike positivists and romantics realistic neopragmatists define theory language pragmatically, i.e., by its function in basic research, instead of syntactically as an axiomatic system or semantically by some distinctive content. The realistic neopragmatist definition contains the traditional idea that theories are hypotheses, but the reason for their hypothetical status is not due either to the positivist observation-theory dichotomy or to the romantics’ requirement of referencing intersubjective mental states. On the realistic neopragmatist philosophy theory language is hypothetical because interested scientists agree that in the event of falsification, it is the theory language that is deemed falsified instead of the test-design language. Sometimes theories are deemed to be more hypothetical, because their semantics is believed to be more empirically underdetermined than the test-design language.
Contrary to positivists and romantics the realistic neopragmatist view theory as a special function of language – empirical testing – rather than a special type of language.
Scientists decide that proposed theory statements are more likely to be productively revised than presumed test-design statements, when a falsifying test outcome shows that revision is needed.
After a conclusive test outcome, the tested theory is no longer a theory, because the conclusive test makes the theory either a scientific law or falsified discourse.
Pragmatically after a theory is tested, it ceases to be a theory, because it is either scientific law or rejected language, except for the skeptical scientist who can design new and additional empirical tests. Designing empirical tests can tax the ingenuity of the most brilliant scientist, and theories may have lives lasting many years due to difficult problems in formulating or implementing decisive test designs. Or as in a computerized discovery system with an empirical decision procedure, theories may have lives measured in milliseconds.
Romantic social scientists adamantly distinguish theory from “models”. Many alternative supplemental and fanciful speculations about motives, which romantics call “theory”, can be appended to an empirical model that has been tested. But it is the model that is empirically tested statistically and/or predictively. Pragmatically the language that is proposed for empirical testing is theory, such that when a model is proposed for testing, the model has the status of theory.
Sometime after initial testing and acceptance, a scientific law may revert to theory status to be tested again. Centuries after Newton’s law of gravitation had been accepted as scientific law, it was tested in 1919 in the historic Eddington eclipse test of Einstein’s alternative relativity theory. Thus for a time early in the twentieth century Newton’s theory was pragmatically speaking a theory again.
On the pragmatic definition “theory” identifies the transient status of language that is proposed for testing.
On the archival definition “theory” identifies a permanent status of accepted language as in a historical archive.
The term “theory” is ambiguous; archival and pragmatic meanings can be distinguished. In the archival sense philosophers and scientists still may speak of Newton’s “theory” of gravitation (as is occasionally done herein). The archival meaning is what in his Patterns of Discovery Hanson calls “completed science” or “catalogue science” as opposed to “research science”. Nevertheless the archival sense has long-standing usage and will be in circulation for a long time to come.
But the archival sense is history and is not the meaning needed to understand the research practices and historical progress of basic science. Research scientists seeking to advance their science using theory in the archival sense instead of the functional concept are misdirected away from advancement of science. They resemble archivists and antiquarians, who do not produce the documents and artifacts they merely collect.
Philosophers of science today recognize the pragmatic meaning of “theory”, which describes it as a transitional phase in the history of science. Pragmatically Newton’s “theory” is now falsified physics in basic science and is no longer proposed for testing, although it is still used by aerospace engineers and others who can exploit its lesser realism and lesser truth.
3.44 Pragmatic Definition of Test-Design Language
Pragmatically theory in research science is universally quantified language that is proposed for testing, and test-design language is universally quantified language that is presumed for testing.
Accepting or rejecting the hypothesis that there are white crows presumes a prior agreement about the semantics needed to identify a bird’s species. The test-design language defines the semantics that identifies the subject of the tested theory and the procedures for executing the test. Its semantics also includes and is not limited to the language for describing the design of any test apparatus, the testing methods including any measurement procedures, and the characterization of the theory’s initial conditions. The semantics for the independent characterization of the observed outcome resulting after the test execution is also included in the test design language. If the test outcome is nonfalsifying, the universally quantified test-design statements then contribute these meaning components to the semantics of the descriptive terms common to both the test design and the theory.
Both theory and test-design language are believed to be true, but for different reasons. Experimenters testing a theory presume the test-design language is true with definitional force for identifying the subject of the test and for executing the test design. The advocates proposing or supporting a theory believe the theory statements are true with sufficient plausibility to warrant the time, effort and cost of testing with an expected nonfalsifying test outcome. For these advocates both the theory statements and the test-design statements contribute component parts to the complex semantics of the descriptive terms that the theory and test-design statements share prior to testing. However during the test only the test-design statements have definitional force, so that the test has contingency. Theories are not true by definition.
Often test-design concepts describing the subject of a theory are either not yet formulated or are too vaguely described to be used for effective testing. They are concepts that await future scientific and technological developments that will enable formulation of an executable and decisive empirical test. Such is the condition of string theory in physics today. Formulating a test design capable of evaluating decisively the empirical merits of a theory often requires considerable ingenuity. Eventual formulation of specific test-design language enabling an empirical test decision supplies the additional clarifying semantics that reduces the disabling empirical underdetermination.
3.45 Pragmatic Definition of Observation Language
In an empirical test observation language in science is test-design sentences that are given particular logical quantification for describing the subject of the individual test event, the test procedure and its execution including notably the reporting of the test outcome.
After scientists have formulated and accepted a test design, the universally quantified language setting forth the design determines the semantics of its observation language. Particularly quantified language cannot define the semantics of descriptive terms. The observation language in a test is sentences or equations with particular logical quantification accepted as experimentally or otherwise observationally true and used for description, and it includes both the test-design sentences describing the initial conditions and procedures for an individual test execution and also the test-outcome sentences reporting the outcome of an executed test. This is a pragmatic concept of observation language, because it depends on the function of such language in the test. Contrary to positivists and earlier philosophers, realistic neopragmatists reject the thesis that there is any inherently or naturally observational semantics.
If a test outcome is not a falsification, then the universally quantified theory is regarded as a scientific law, and it contributes semantical components to the complex meanings associated with the descriptive terms shared with the universally quantified test-design sentences. And the nonfalsified tested theory, i.e., law, when given particular quantification is also used for observational reporting. As Einstein told Heisenberg, the theory decides what the physicist can observe.
Additionally the terms in the universally quantified test-design sentences contribute their semantics to the meaning complex of the theory’s terms. These semantical contributions reduce vagueness, and do not depend on the logical derivation of any of the test-design sentences from the theory sentences. But after the nonfalsifying test outcome, where such derivation is possible, coherence is increased and vagueness is thereby further reduced. Furthermore due to such a derivation test-outcome measurement values in mathematically expressed theories may be changed to numerical values that still fall within the range of measurement error, and the accuracy of the measurement values may be judged improved.
3.46 Observation and Test Execution
Before the test the semantics for all the language needed to realize a theory’s initial conditions together with the test-outcome statements have their semantics defined by the universal statements in the test design, since particularly quantified language does not define semantics.
During the individual test event all the antecedent test design statements describing the subject of the theory and the test protocols have their logical quantification change to particular quantification together with the test outcome statements. Then the particularly quantified conditional theory statements are used to produce the consequent prediction in the test.
After the test is executed the particularly quantified statements that are the test outcome statements in the test design report the observed test outcome, and these are compared with the particularly quantified prediction statements. If the consequent prediction statements and the test outcome statements state the same thing, then the test is nonfalsifying. The prediction statements are not as such observation statements unless the test outcome is nonfalsifying. If the test is falsifying, the falsified theory and its erroneous predictions are merely rejected language.
For a mathematically expressed theory particular logical quantification is accomplished by assigning values by measurement to implement the theory’s initial conditions needed to calculate the theory’s one or several prediction variables and then by calculating the predicted numerical values. A nonfalsifying test outcome is a predicted magnitude that deviates from the measurement magnitude for the same variable by an amount that is within the estimated range of measurement errors, such that the prediction is deemed to be as the test-outcome statements describe. Then the test is effectively decidable as nonfalsifying. Otherwise the test has falsified the theory, and the prediction values are simply rejected as erroneous.
3.47 Scientific Professions
In computational philosophy of science a “scientific profession” means the researchers who at a given point in time are attempting to solve a scientific problem as defined by a test design.
They are the language community represented by the input and output state descriptions for a discovery system application. On this definition of “profession” for discovery systems in computational philosophy of science, a profession is a much smaller group than the academicians in the field of the problem and is furthermore not limited to academicians.
3.48 Semantic Individuation of Theories
Theory language is defined pragmatically, but theories are individuated semantically. Theories are individuated semantically in either of two ways:
Firstly different expressions are different theories, because they address different subjects. Different theory expressions having different test designs are different theories with different subjects.
Secondly different expressions are different theories, because each makes contrary claims about a common subject. The test-design language defines the common subject. This is equivalent to Popper’s individuating theories.
A problem related to individuation of theories is the linguistic boundary of an individual theory, a problem ignored by philosophers who take a wholistic view of theories. The extent of the language of an individual theory is determined by what is necessary to solve the problem defined by the test design, i.e., necessary to make an empirically adequate explanation and make empirically accurate predictions. If the theory is falsified in a test, then an innovative scientist may decide to incorporate more language that he believes is strategic to a nonfalsifying test, thereby performing the discovery practice of theory elaboration. Or he may call upon the other discovery practices of theory extension or theory revision.