Intertheoretic Relations in Context: Details, Purpose, and Practice
Ricci, Joseph Thomas
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An intertheory comparison should be assessed with regards to what goals it seeks to accomplish. Traditionally reductions have sought to establish ontological primacy, and also to have the reducing theory explain features of the reduced. From a functionalist perspective, this dissertation assesses three major results: a reduction of general relativistic spacetimes to a Newtonian gravitational structure, a theory comparison that employs both wave and ray optics, and a reduction that limits the momentum equation of special relativity to the classical momentum equation. These case-studies reveal evidence of types of goals given little discussion in existing literature on theory reduction. I find that successional reductions can (i) provide an explanation of (aspects of) the succeeded theory by the successor; (ii) provide an explanation of the theories' successes/failures, as well as explaining details of the progress, both historical and conceptual, from the succeeded theory to the successor; (iii) transfer confidence to the successor from the succeeded theory; and (iv) delimit a range of applicability for the succeeded theory. Recognizing these new goals provides insight for analysis of the intertheoretic activity of scientists, as well as the work of philosophers that assess how scientific theories relate to one another.
- Philosophy