MTL PhilSci Net | Conférence « Building Theories: Strategies not Blueprints », Margaret Morrison, University of Toronto (29 septembre 2017, UQAM)

3:00-5:00 pm, UQAM, Pavillon Thérèse-Casgrain (W), salle W-5215
455, boulevard René-Lévesque Est, Montréal PLAN/MAP

Abstract | Résumé : Views of theory structure in philosophy of science (semantic and syntactic) have little to say about how theories are actually constructed; instead, the task of the philosopher is typically understood as reconstruction in order to highlight the theory’s essential features. However, if one takes seriously these views about theory structure then it might seem that we should also characterize the practice of building theories in accordance with the guidelines they set out. If we look at examples of some of our most successful theories we see nothing like the practices that conform to our present accounts of theory structure. Instead we have a variety of different approaches, approaches that partly depend on the phenomena we want to account for and the kind of theory we desire. A number of strategies can be identified in high energy physics, two of which are (1) top down using symmetry principles and (2) a bottom up strategy beginning with different types of models and gradually embedding these in a broad theoretical framework. Finally, in cases where methods and techniques cross disciplines, as in the case of population biology and statistical physics, we can see that theory construction was largely based on analogical considerations such as using mathematical methods for treating systems of molecules in order to incorporate populations of genes into the theory of natural selection. Using these various examples I argue that building theories doesn’t involve a blueprint for what a theory should look like, rather the architecture is developed in a piecemeal way using different strategies that fit the context and phenomena in question. 

La conférence co-organisée avec le Réseau montréalais de philosophie des sciences et le Centre de recherche interuniversaire sur la science et la technologie.  —> Affiche