Conclusion: An Ontological Approach to Theories

  • Jerrold L. Aronson


The major objective of this text has been to formulate, develop and defend a theory about the nature of scientific theories. Part of what such a characterisation is meant to do is account for the variety of ways a scientific theory functions. Like nature, theories are many-faceted: they are responsible for a scientist’s ability to explain and predict; they support the truth of certain counterfactual conditionals but rule out others; they are able to reduce or incorporate other theories, bringing about a greater unification within our conceptual scheme; and, finally, they confer meaning upon ‘raw’ data by providing us with a means of identifying and differentiating phenomena. The central thesis coming out of these chapters is that an account of the above aspects of theory can, for the most part, be traced to a theory’s ontological commitments its ‘ontological zoo’.


Scientific Theory Ontological Commitment Logical Positivist Theoretical Entity Counterfactual Conditional 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    T. Wolf, Kant’s Theory of Mental Activity (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1963) pp. 96–8.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    ‘The greatest weakness of positivism, in the philosophy of mind as elsewhere, is that it tries to make the notion of meaning bear too heavy a burden. This is always a bad tendency in analytic philosophy...’ H. Putnam, Philosophical Papers, p. 451.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    In Kuhn, Essential Tension.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Hanson, Patterns of Discovery, p. 64.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    For example, ideally, the language of classical thermodynamics, which includes terms such as ‘temperature’, ‘pressure’ and ‘entropy’ can be mapped into the language of kinetic theory, with ‘temperature’ hitting ‘mean kinetic energy of gas molecules’, ‘pressure’ hitting ‘average momentum transfer of molecules per area’, ‘entropy’ going to ‘degree of randomness’, and so on. Everyday terms such as ‘colour’,’ solidity’, ‘elasticity’, etc. would be embedded into the language of kinetic theory as well.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Kuhn, Essential Tension, pp. 308–19.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    J. Earman, ‘Who’s Afraid of Absolute Space?’, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, vol. 48 (1970).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Jerrold L. Aronson 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jerrold L. Aronson
    • 1
  1. 1.State University of New YorkBinghamtonUSA

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