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.
Demopoulos wrote ‘for the eye of God and the good of my soul,’ as he used to say. On Theories is a stunning achievement, a profound argument for a novel thesis about the nature of truth in scientific theories, ranging from case studies about our understanding of molecular reality to Bohr’s dispute with Einstein about quantum reality.
On Theories, a painstaking analysis of the seemingly straightforward concept of theory, takes us on an exciting journey through twentieth-century science and philosophy of science. It critiques naïve dogmas such as the theory/observation dichotomy, replacing them with a nuanced account centered on the notion of ‘theory-mediated measurement.’ On the basis of this account, Demopoulos offers a novel interpretation of major breakthroughs in classical as well as quantum mechanics. Meticulous in its historical analysis and compelling in its philosophical argument, On Theories is a must for anyone interested in science and its method.
William Demopoulos was one of the leading philosophers of science of his generation. An accomplished logician whose mastery of the logicist tradition was unequaled, he was just as productive in contemporary philosophy of physics, especially philosophy of quantum physics. On Theories brings to a stunning close a line of research he actively pursued for the last two decades: the epistemology and ontology of physical theories. This is not only an important book but a rare landmark in the development of the discipline.
- 272 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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