Half-Day Workshop in Philosophy of Science

Organized by Dr. Iulian Toader, Fellow of the IRH

Date: 24 November, 17h00

Place: Faculty of Philosophy, University of Bucharest


Christian Damböck (University of Vienna), Carnap’s notion of analyticity and the two wings of analytic philosophy

Abstract: Unlike Quine and other representatives of the “second wing” of analytic philosophy who defend natural language philosophy, Carnap and other members of the Vienna Circle (viz. the “first wing” of analytic philosophy) commit themselves to the program of language planning. Carnap’s notion of analyticity is the very essence of his variety of the latter program, because it takes the mathematical realm of pure structures and analytic truths and transforms classical philosophical problems as to receive pure analytic treatment. In this paper I demonstrate how Carnap’s philosophical agenda though being purely analytical is also a fairly rich one, encompassing hermeneutic, aesthetic, normative-ethical, and political perspectives, whereas in the second wing of analytic philosophy all philosophical perspectives of this traditional kind become removed.

Antigone Nounou (University of Athens), On Scientific Understanding without Explanation

Abstract: Considering that understanding is a mental state, one could hardly dispute the idea that a good scientific explanation may confer scientific understanding of the phenomenon explained. Thus, one might assert that the causal explanation of a phenomenon gives rise to understanding of the underlying causes, a deductive-nomological explanation allows for the comprehension of the role laws play in its occurrence, a unificationist explanation enables one to fathom how that particular phenomenon fits in the bigger picture of things, etc. Still, even when scientific theories and models are known to misrepresent phenomena, and hence they do not provide acceptable explanations, they afford additional, distinct kinds of scientific understanding; or so I argue. In particular, I examine models of the nuclear structure—such as the liquid drop model—and statistical models of critical behaviour and phase transitions, which save the phenomena of the systems they describe despite the fact that they misrepresent them. I argue that what we gain from such models is a form of scientific understanding that comes prior to—and even irrespective of—scientific explanations of phenomena. This form of understanding I contrast with the other distinct form of scientific understanding that does not stem from scientific explanations and which is typically associated with interpretations of theories. Unsurprisingly, the typical case study is quantum mechanics and a conclusion to take home is that the kind of scientific understanding that is intertwined with a theory’s interpretation is necessary for the explanations of phenomena that will be based it and its models. In closing, I would also like to suggest that the taxonomy of the kinds of understanding that we may arrive at by this type of philosophical analysis is at least a useful, if not also a necessary, preparatory step for further analysis whether our proclivities are normative or naturalistic.

Background reading:

  • Rudolf Carnap, “The Aim of Inductive Logic” in Ernest Nagel, Patrick Suppes, Alfred Tarski (eds.), Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science, Stanford University Press, 1962, 303-318.
  • Alisa Bokulich, “Distinguishing Explanatory from Nonexplanatory Fictions”, in Philosophy of Science, 79, 725-737.

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