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Reduction and Realism

Margaret Morrison
PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association
Vol. 1988, Volume One: Contributed Papers (1988), pp. 286-293
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/192995
Page Count: 8
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Reduction and Realism
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Abstract

In The Foundations of Space-Time Theories Friedman argues for a literal realistic interpretation about theoretical structures that participate in theory unification. His account of the relationship between observational and theoretical structure is characterized as that of model to submodel and involves a reductivist strategy that allows for the conjunction of certain theoretical structures with other structures which, taken together, form a truly unified theory. Friedman criticizes the representational account for its failure to allow for a literal interpretation and conjunction of theoretical structure. I argue that contra Friedman the representationalist account can sanction a literal interpretation and in fact presents a more accurate account of scientific practice than the model-submodel account. The strict reductivism characteristic of the model submodel approach can in some cases be seen to prevent rather than facilitate a literal account of theoretical structure. Because of the dependence Friedman places on reduction for his account of conjunction, and because the former cannot be sustained, it would appear that Friedman's own account fails to achieve what it was designed to do.

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