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The Logical Structure of Scientific Knowledge-Systems



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Vos, Bob 


This thesis seeks to assess and develop the use of formal methods in philosophy of science. More specifically, I argue that the particular strand of philosophy of science that concerns itself with the formal structure of scientific knowledge has focused excessively on the structure of scientific theories. In response, I consider the prospects for the formal study of other, supratheoretical aspects of science, culminating in the proposal for a research programme centred around the formal study of, what I shall call, scientific knowledge-systems. This line of argument is laid out over the course of two parts, along with an extended introduction.

In my extended introduction, I will situate myself with respect to the wider philosophy of science. This is necessary, because the body of work I seek to build on in this thesis is emblematic of a style of philosophy of science, referred to here as the architectonic style, which today has largely fallen out of favour. Accordingly, I will first offer some general arguments for the desirability and viability of this style of metascientific enquiry.

In Part I of the thesis, I offer a critical appraisal of extant work on the formal structure of scientific knowledge, referred to there as architectonic metascience. Following an extensive survey of architectonic metascience (Chapter 1), I argue that it suffers from the problem of theory-centrism (Chapter 2). The upshot of this observation, I argue, is that frameworks for the formal study of scientific knowledge should adopt a supra-theoretical unit of analysis (or macro-unit, for short). I conclude my appraisal by discussing the few extant—but seldom acknowledged—examples of the formal study of macro-units (Chapter 3).

Finally, in Part II, I seek to make a contribution to the formal study of macro-units. A recurring theme throughout the history of analytic philosophy is the idea that we may draw on the metatheoretical study of logic to inform the metatheoretical study of science. In line with this tradition, I first survey the movement of logical abstractivism, within which we find various frameworks for the systematic study of different systems of logic (Chapter 4). Following this is an intermezzo which presents an existing application of logical abstractivism to philosophy of science (Chapter 5), and a brief discussion on the explication of target systems in formal analyses of science (Chapter 6). Building on these reflections, I set out the programme of metascientific abstractivism for the study of scientific knowledge-systems (Chapter 7).





Butterfield, Jeremy Nicholas


abstractivism, architectonic metascience, logical systems, scientific knowledge-systems, supratheoretical unit, theory-centrism


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Tarner Studentship in the Philosophy of Science and the History of Scientific Ideas