Formal and Material Theories in Philosophy of Science: A Methodological Interpretation

Conference paper
Part of the The European Philosophy of Science Association Proceedings book series (EPSP, volume 1)

Abstract

John Norton’s argument that all formal theories of induction fail raises substantive questions about the philosophical analysis of scientific reasoning. What are the criteria of adequacy for theories of induction, explanation, or theory structure? Is more than one adequate theory possible? Using a generalized version of Norton’s argument, I demonstrate that the competition between formal and material theories in philosophy of science results from adhering to different criteria of adequacy. This situation encourages an interpretation of “formal” and “material” as indicators of divergent criteria that accompany different philosophical methodologies. I characterize another criterion of adequacy associated with material theories, the avoidance of imported problems, and conclude that one way to reconcile conflicting criteria is to adopt a pluralist stance toward theories of scientific reasoning.

Keywords

Formal Theory Successful Functioning Inductive Inference Philosophical Analysis Scientific Reasoning 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgments

I received a variety of helpful feedback on this material from the session participants at the European Philosophy of Science Association meeting in Amsterdam (October 2009). Ingo Brigandt, Ron Giere, John Norton, Greg Novack, Ken Waters, Bill Wimsatt, and an anonymous referee provided useful criticisms and suggestions on an earlier draft of the manuscript.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Minnesota Center for Philosophy of ScienceUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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