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Frameworks, models, and case studies. a new methodology for studying conceptual change in science and philosophy
Frameworks, models, and case studies. a new methodology for studying conceptual change in science and philosophy
This thesis focuses on models of conceptual change in science and philosophy. In particular, I developed a new bootstrapping methodology for studying conceptual change, centered around the formalization of several popular models of conceptual change and the collective assessment of their improved formal versions via nine evaluative dimensions. Among the models of conceptual change treated in the thesis are Carnap’s explication, Lakatos’ concept-stretching, Toulmin’s conceptual populations, Waismann’s open texture, Mark Wilson’s patches and facades, Sneed’s structuralism, and Paul Thagard’s conceptual revolutions. In order to analyze and compare the conception of conceptual change provided by these different models, I rely on several historical reconstructions of episodes of scientific conceptual change. The historical episodes of scientific change that figure in this work include the emergence of the morphological concept of fish in biological taxonomies, the development of scientific conceptions of temperature, the Church-Turing thesis and related axiomatizations of effective calculability, the history of the concept of polyhedron in 17th and 18th century mathematics, Hamilton’s invention of the quaternions, the history of the pre-abstract group concepts in 18th and 19th century mathematics, the expansion of Newtonian mechanics to viscous fluids forces phenomena, and the chemical revolution. I will also present five different formal and informal improvements of four specific models of conceptual change. I will first present two different improvements of Carnapian explication, a formal and an informal one. My informal improvement of Carnapian explication will consist of a more fine-grained version of the procedure that adds an intermediate, third step to the two steps of Carnapian explication. I will show how this novel three-step version of explication is more suitable than its traditional two-step relative to handle complex cases of explications. My second, formal improvement of Carnapian explication will be a full explication of the concept of explication itself within the theory of conceptual spaces. By virtue of this formal improvement, the whole procedure of explication together with its application procedures and its pragmatic desiderata will be reconceptualized as a precise procedure involving topological and geometrical constraints inside the theory of conceptual spaces. My third improved model of conceptual change will consist of a formal explication of Darwinian models of conceptual change that will make vast use of Godfrey-Smith’s population-based Darwinism for targeting explicitly mathematical conceptual change. My fourth improvement will be dedicated instead to Wilson’s indeterminate model of conceptual change. I will show how Wilson’s very informal framework can be explicated within a modified version of the structuralist model-theoretic reconstructions of scientific theories. Finally, the fifth improved model of conceptual change will be a belief-revision-like logical framework that reconstructs Thagard’s model of conceptual revolution as specific revision and contraction operations that work on conceptual structures. At the end of this work, a general conception of conceptual change in science and philosophy emerges, thanks to the combined action of the three layers of my methodology. This conception takes conceptual change to be a multi-faceted phenomenon centered around the dynamics of groups of concepts. According to this conception, concepts are best reconstructed as plastic and inter-subjective entities equipped with a non-trivial internal structure and subject to a certain degree of localized holism. Furthermore, conceptual dynamics can be judged from a weakly normative perspective, bound to be dependent on shared values and goals. Conceptual change is then best understood, according to this conception, as a ubiquitous phenomenon underlying all of our intellectual activities, from science to ordinary linguistic practices. As such, conceptual change does not pose any particular problem to value-laden notions of scientific progress, objectivity, and realism. At the same time, this conception prompts all our concept-driven intellectual activities, including philosophical and metaphilosophical reflections, to take into serious consideration the phenomenon of conceptual change. An important consequence of this conception, and of the analysis that generated it, is in fact that an adequate understanding of the dynamics of philosophical concepts is a prerequisite for analytic philosophy to develop a realistic and non-idealized depiction of itself and its activities.
Conceptual Change, Scientific Change, Concepts, Carnap, Explication, Church-Turing Thesis, Lakatos, Waismann, Wilson, Structuralism, Thagard, Conceptual Revolutions, Belief Revision.
De Benedetto, Matteo
2022
English
Universitätsbibliothek der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
De Benedetto, Matteo (2022): Frameworks, models, and case studies: a new methodology for studying conceptual change in science and philosophy. Dissertation, LMU München: Faculty of Philosophy, Philosophy of Science and the Study of Religion
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Abstract

This thesis focuses on models of conceptual change in science and philosophy. In particular, I developed a new bootstrapping methodology for studying conceptual change, centered around the formalization of several popular models of conceptual change and the collective assessment of their improved formal versions via nine evaluative dimensions. Among the models of conceptual change treated in the thesis are Carnap’s explication, Lakatos’ concept-stretching, Toulmin’s conceptual populations, Waismann’s open texture, Mark Wilson’s patches and facades, Sneed’s structuralism, and Paul Thagard’s conceptual revolutions. In order to analyze and compare the conception of conceptual change provided by these different models, I rely on several historical reconstructions of episodes of scientific conceptual change. The historical episodes of scientific change that figure in this work include the emergence of the morphological concept of fish in biological taxonomies, the development of scientific conceptions of temperature, the Church-Turing thesis and related axiomatizations of effective calculability, the history of the concept of polyhedron in 17th and 18th century mathematics, Hamilton’s invention of the quaternions, the history of the pre-abstract group concepts in 18th and 19th century mathematics, the expansion of Newtonian mechanics to viscous fluids forces phenomena, and the chemical revolution. I will also present five different formal and informal improvements of four specific models of conceptual change. I will first present two different improvements of Carnapian explication, a formal and an informal one. My informal improvement of Carnapian explication will consist of a more fine-grained version of the procedure that adds an intermediate, third step to the two steps of Carnapian explication. I will show how this novel three-step version of explication is more suitable than its traditional two-step relative to handle complex cases of explications. My second, formal improvement of Carnapian explication will be a full explication of the concept of explication itself within the theory of conceptual spaces. By virtue of this formal improvement, the whole procedure of explication together with its application procedures and its pragmatic desiderata will be reconceptualized as a precise procedure involving topological and geometrical constraints inside the theory of conceptual spaces. My third improved model of conceptual change will consist of a formal explication of Darwinian models of conceptual change that will make vast use of Godfrey-Smith’s population-based Darwinism for targeting explicitly mathematical conceptual change. My fourth improvement will be dedicated instead to Wilson’s indeterminate model of conceptual change. I will show how Wilson’s very informal framework can be explicated within a modified version of the structuralist model-theoretic reconstructions of scientific theories. Finally, the fifth improved model of conceptual change will be a belief-revision-like logical framework that reconstructs Thagard’s model of conceptual revolution as specific revision and contraction operations that work on conceptual structures. At the end of this work, a general conception of conceptual change in science and philosophy emerges, thanks to the combined action of the three layers of my methodology. This conception takes conceptual change to be a multi-faceted phenomenon centered around the dynamics of groups of concepts. According to this conception, concepts are best reconstructed as plastic and inter-subjective entities equipped with a non-trivial internal structure and subject to a certain degree of localized holism. Furthermore, conceptual dynamics can be judged from a weakly normative perspective, bound to be dependent on shared values and goals. Conceptual change is then best understood, according to this conception, as a ubiquitous phenomenon underlying all of our intellectual activities, from science to ordinary linguistic practices. As such, conceptual change does not pose any particular problem to value-laden notions of scientific progress, objectivity, and realism. At the same time, this conception prompts all our concept-driven intellectual activities, including philosophical and metaphilosophical reflections, to take into serious consideration the phenomenon of conceptual change. An important consequence of this conception, and of the analysis that generated it, is in fact that an adequate understanding of the dynamics of philosophical concepts is a prerequisite for analytic philosophy to develop a realistic and non-idealized depiction of itself and its activities.