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date: 06 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, philosophers of science have asked, “what kind of thing is a scientific theory?” The logical positivists answered: a scientific theory is a mathematical theory, plus an empirical interpretation of that theory. They also assumed that a mathematical theory is specified by a set of axioms in a formal language. Later twentieth-century philosophers questioned this account, arguing instead that a scientific theory need not include a mathematical component or that the mathematical component need not be given by a set of axioms in a formal language. In this chapter, the author surveys the various accounts of scientific theories in twentieth-century philosophy, trying to remove some misconceptions and clear the path for future research.

Keywords: semantic view, syntactic view, received view, Carnap, van Fraassen, correspondence rules, category theory

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