, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 417-442
Date: 17 Nov 2010

Scientific representation: A long journey from pragmatics to pragmatics

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James Ladyman

Once again, van Fraassen has given us an incredibly rich, learned and profound book that will be studied and argued about for decades to come. The book is about scientific representation, but from the perspective of Bas van Fraassen’s empiricism this means “representation of the empirical phenomena” (1). He is keen to distance himself from the empiricist tradition that would interpret the latter notion in terms of mental representation, and instead focuses his attention on mathematical and material representations, and one main form of representation in which he is interested is the representational aspect of measurement. Following and extending the line of argument that we find in the work of Poincaré and Weyl among others, van Fraassen argues for the “essential indexical” (3) in science. This is a radical view that is at odds with the idea of objective inquiry that enables us to transcend our situation and describe the world independently of human beings, which is how ma