Ontology

Ontology
Ontology

The term ontology (from Greek to on, ontos—being, entity; logos—concept, science) usually denotes: (a) a philosophical discipline that studies being (entity) as being (entity), that is, being in general; (b) the ontology of a theory: the kind of entities that should exist if the given theory is true.

One of the fundamental problems of ontology (particularly in its first meaning) is the question about the relation between being and becoming and thus the question about the place and role of time in the explanation of reality.

As a philosophical discipline, ontology has existed at least since the time of Aristotle (384–322 BCE), who in his Metaphysics claims that one of its tasks is to investigate “being as being and the attributes that belong to this in virtue of its own nature.”

Truthlikeness

Truthlikeness
Truthlikeness

Truth is the aim of inquiry. Despite this, progress in an inquiry does not always consist in supplanting falsehoods with truths. The history of science is replete with cases of falsehoods supplanting other falsehoods.

If such transitions are to constitute epistemic progress, then it must be possible for one falsehood better to realize the aim of inquiry—be more truthlike, be closer to the truth, or have more verisimilitude—than another. The notion of “truthlikeness” is thus fundamental for any theory of knowledge that endeavors to take our epistemic limitations seriously without embracing epistemic pessimism.

Given that truthlikeness is not only a much-needed notion but rich and interesting, it is surprising that it has attracted less attention than the simpler notion of truth. The explanation is twofold. First, if knowledge requires truth, then falsehoods cannot constitute knowledge. The high value of knowledge has obscured other epistemic values such as the comparative value of acquiring more truthlike theories.

Ehrenfried Walter von Tschirnhaus

Ehrenfried Walter von Tschirnhaus
Ehrenfried Walter von Tschirnhaus

Ehrenfried Walter von Tschirnhaus (or Tschirnhausen), the German mathematician and physicist, was born in Kieslingswalde, near Görlitz, and became count of Kieslingswalde and Stolzenberg. He studied mathematics at Görlitz and at the University of Leiden, where the Cartesian philosophers Adriaan Heereboord and Arnold Geulincx were teaching.

After serving with the Dutch in 1672 during a war with France, Tschirnhaus studied further in Leiden and in Germany, and in 1674 he traveled to London, Paris, Rome, Sicily, and Malta. He met Benedict de Spinoza in Holland, English scientists in London, and he undoubtedly met Cartesian philosophers and scientists such as Jacques Rohault and Pierre-Sylvain Régis in Paris.

Tschirnhaus finally settled down in Kieslingswalde. He established several factories for manufacturing glass and for grinding magnifying glasses, and was associated with J. F. Böttger in the development of Meissen porcelain.

Type Theory

Type Theory
Type Theory

Type theory, in one sense, is the view that some category of abstract entities—sets, in the simplest example, but there are analogous views of properties, relations, concepts, and functions—come in a hierarchy of levels, with an entity of one level applying to (having as members, or having as instances, or ...) entities only of a lower level.

Such a view gives an intuitively comprehensible picture of the universe of abstracta and provides a principled way of avoiding Bertrand Arthur William Russell’s Paradox and its analogues. In a second sense, the term refers to any of a wide range of formal axiomatic systems embodying some form of the view. The present entry gives a short history of the view and a brief survey of the systems.

The systems are generally formulated in many-sorted quantificational logic, with a separate alphabet of quantified variables ranging over each type of entity. Axiomatically, they incorporate the rules of propositional logic (usually though not always classical) and of quantifier logic, the latter reduplicated for each alphabet of variables.

Underdetermination

Quello che cerchi
Underdetermination Thesis

Underdetermination is a relation between evidence and theory. More accurately, it is a relation between the propositions that express the (relevant) evidence and the propositions that constitute the theory.

The claim that evidence underdetermines theory may mean two things: first, that the evidence cannot prove the truth of the theory, and second, that the evidence cannot render the theory probable.

Let us call the first deductive underdetermination and the second inductive (or ampliative) underdetermination. Both kinds of claims are supposed to have a certain epistemic implication, namely that belief in theory is never warranted by the evidence. This is the underdetermination thesis.

Unity and Disunity in Science

Tribal Belly Dance
Unity and Disunity in Science

Unity covers a wide range of loosely connected ideas in science, differently analyzed by different interpreters. Generally, they are expressions, or echoes, of the idea that science can succeed in providing one consistent, integrated, simple, and comprehensive description of the world.

This entry will provide a historical perspective on such ways of thinking about unity in science. (Readers should bear in mind that the real history is much more complex and interesting than the following microsketch, which is intended only to introduce the leading ideas.)

Mechanisms and Laws

The scientific revolution of the seventeenth century involved consolidation of the “mechanical (or corpuscularian) philosophy” according to which natural phenomena are to be understood in terms of shaped matter in motion, with the natural world likened to a giant mechanism.

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