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On Theories

On Theories

Logical Empiricism and the Methodology of Modern Physics

William Demopoulos

Edited by Michael Friedman

ISBN 9780674237575

Publication date: 02/15/2022

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A renowned philosopher’s final work, illuminating how the logical empiricist tradition has failed to appreciate the role of actual experiments in forming its philosophy of science.

The logical empiricist treatment of physics dominated twentieth-century philosophy of science. But the logical empiricist tradition, for all it accomplished, does not do justice to the way in which empirical evidence functions in modern physics.

In his final work, the late philosopher of science William Demopoulos contends that philosophers have failed to provide an adequate epistemology of science because they have failed to appreciate the tightly woven character of theory and evidence. As a consequence, theory comes apart from evidence. This trouble is nowhere more evident than in theorizing about particle and quantum physics. Arguing that we must consider actual experiments as they have unfolded across history, Demopoulos provides a new epistemology of theories and evidence, albeit one that stands on the shoulders of giants.

On Theories finds clarity in Isaac Newton’s suspicion of mere “hypotheses.” Newton’s methodology lies in the background of Jean Perrin’s experimental investigations of molecular reality and of the subatomic investigations of J. J. Thomson and Robert Millikan. Demopoulos extends this account to offer novel insights into the distinctive nature of quantum reality, where a logico-mathematical reconstruction of Bohrian complementarity meets John Stewart Bell’s empirical analysis of Einstein’s “local realism.” On Theories ultimately provides a new interpretation of quantum probabilities as themselves objectively representing empirical reality.


  • Demopoulos has crafted a thoughtful and interesting interpretation of quantum mechanics that completes his earlier work of the mid-’70s…A wonderful tribute to a very significant philosopher.

    —Adrian Heathcote, Metascience


  • William Demopoulos (1943–2017), editor of Frege’s Philosophy of Mathematics and author of Logicism and Its Philosophical Legacy, spent nearly four decades as Professor of Philosophy at the University of Western Ontario.
  • Michael Friedman is Patrick Suppes Professor of Philosophy of Science at Stanford University.

Book Details

  • 272 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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