Reconstructing Scientific Theory Change by Means of Frames

  • Gerhard Schurz
  • Ioannis Votsis
Part of the Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy book series (SLAP, volume 94)


This paper has two aims. The first is to show the usefulness and intuitiveness of frame theory in reconstructing scientific classification systems. The second is to employ such reconstructions in order to make headway in the scientific realism debate and, more specifically, in the question concerning scientific theory change. Two case studies are utilised with the second aim in mind. The first concerns the transition from the phlogiston theory to the oxygen theory of combustion, while the second concerns the transition from the caloric theory to the kinetic theory of heat. Frame-theoretic reconstructions of these theories reveal substantial structural continuities across theory change. This outcome supports a structural realist view of science, according to which successful scientific theories reveal only structural features of the unobservable world.


Frames Scientific classification system Structural realism Theory change 



This paper contains material from talks presented at the CTF 2007 and CTF 2009 conferences in Düsseldorf as well as from Votsis and Schurz (2012). We would like to thank the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) for funding our project B6 (part of the interdisciplinary research unit FOR 600 ‘Functional Concepts and Frames’) as it made it possible for us to write this paper. We would also like to thank two anonymous referees for their useful feedback.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyHeinrich Heine University DüsseldorfDüsseldorfGermany

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