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Logic and Philosophy of Science Group Talk (Chris Smeenk, Western)

Friday November 24, 2023, 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

The Logic and Philosophy of Science Group is pleased to welcome guest speaker Chris Smeenk, a professor in the Department of Philosophy at Western University, and the director of the Rotman Institute of Philosophy. Before arriving at Western, he held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Dibner Institute for History of Science and Technology (MIT) and was an assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy at UCLA (2003-2007). Dr. Smeenk’s main research interests lie in the history and philosophy of physics, general issues in the philosophy of science, and seventeenth-century natural philosophy.

Talk Title

Interpretation through Measurement

Talk Abstract

Most philosophical approaches to interpreting theories focus on characterizing what the world would be like if the theory were true. Physical significance can be attributed to these possible models, by specifying how parts of these models map onto empirical observations. Here I will defend an alternative view of empirical content that emphasizes the importance of applications, and in particular schematic representations of measurement, as a guide to interpretation. Physical theories typically provide us with an account of what systems can be used to reliably measure some fundamental quantity introduced by the theory, and over what domains they can be successfully applied. Assessing the reliability of measurements characterized in this way requires claims that extend beyond a single model, since these implicitly consider a range of counterfactual circumstances. Capturing this modal dimension of measurement requires an appeal to structures defined on the space of models. On my alternative view, putting these questions front and center leads to a strikingly different account of empirical content, with implications for questions of underdetermination, equivalence, and theory confirmation. I will sketch the view, respond to several objections to it, and consider some of these implications.

About the Logic and Philosophy of Science Group

One of six departmental Research Interest Groups, the Logic and Philosophy of Science Group hosts talks on logic, general philosophy of science, and philosophy of the particular sciences, as well as talks in allied areas such as formal epistemology, decision theory, and the metaphysics of science.



Friday November 24, 2023
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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Jackman Humanities Building, Room 418
170 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5R 2M8 Canada


Logic and Philosophy of Science Group
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