Synopses & Reviews
The Completeness of Scientific Theories deals with the role of theories in measurement. Theories are employed in measurements in order to account for the operation of the instruments and to correct the raw data obtained. These observation theories thus guarantee the reliability of measurement procedures. In special cases a theory can be used as its own observation theory. In such cases it is possible, relying on the theory itself, to analyze the measuring procedures associated with theoretical states specified within its framework. This feature is called completeness. The book addresses the assets and liabilities of theories exhibiting this feature. Chief among the prima-facie liabilities is a testability problem. If a theory that is supposed to explain certain measurement results at the same time provides the theoretical means necessary for obtaining these results, the threat of circularity arises. Closer investigation reveals that various circularity problems do indeed emerge in complete theories, but that these problems can generally be solved. Some methods for testing and confirming theories are developed and discussed. The particulars of complete theories are addressed using a variety of theories from the physical sciences and psychology as examples. The example developed in greatest detail is general relativity theory, which exhibits an outstanding degree of completeness. In this context a new approach to the issue of the conventionality of physical geometry is pursued. The book contains the first systematic analysis of completeness; it thus opens up new paths of research. For philosophers of science working on problems of confirmation, theory-ladenness of evidence, empirical testability, and space--time philosophy (or students in these areas).
Earlier in this century, many philosophers of science (for example, Rudolf Carnap) drew a fairly sharp distinction between theory and observation, between theoretical terms like 'mass' and 'electron', and observation terms like 'measures three meters in length' and 'is _2 Celsius'. By simply looking at our instruments we can ascertain what numbers our measurements yield. Creatures like mass are different: we determine mass by calculation; we never directly observe a mass. Nor an electron: this term is introduced in order to explain what we observe. This (once standard) distinction between theory and observation was eventually found to be wanting. First, if the distinction holds, it is difficult to see what can characterize the relationship between theory: md observation. How can theoretical terms explain that which is itself in no way theorized? The second point leads out of the first: are not the instruments that provide us with observational material themselves creatures of theory? Is it really possible to have an observation language that is entirely barren of theory? The theory-Iadenness of observation languages is now an accept- ed feature of the logic of science. Many regard such dependence of observation on theory as a virtue. If our instruments of observation do not derive their meaning from theories, whence comes that meaning? Surely - in science - we have nothing else but theories to tell us what to try to observe.
Table of Contents
Introduction. A: Theory and Evidence in Scientific Theories. I. The Theory-Ladenness of Observation and Measurement. II. The Completeness of Theories. III. Completeness in Natural Science and Psychology. B: Theory and Evidence in Physical Geometry. IV. Reichenbach Loops in Operation: The Conventionality of Physical Geometry. V. The Completeness of General Relativity Theory. VI. The Conventionality of Physical Geometry: A Reconsideration. References. Index.