Interpreting reality: Models and reference

Evandro Agazzi

Abstract


The notion of model has different meanings in common language and in the context of the sciences. In the formalized sciences this meaning has been established in the special sense of the extensional semantics of mathematical logic and is the basic notion of "model theory". It is characterized by the fact that the model must satisfy the conditions of the linguistic construction. When this construction, however, is meant to characterize its different models (or even a single "intended model"), several well-known limitations exist. In the case of the empirical sciences the situation is opposite: a linguistic structure (a theory) must be such as to satisfy its intended model (or domain of objects). This opposition can be overcome if one considers a model as an intensional reality (an intellectual representation) encoding a certain amount of properties, that are exemplified by concrete objects to a certain extent. The model (understood in this way) constitutes a realm of sense for which a reference is looked. From this point of view a scientific theory is the linguistic explicitation of its intellectual model, and the referents one intends to understand and explain by means of the model are captured by non linguistic "criteria of referentiality" of an operational nature. In this way it is possible to see that modifications of theories in the presence of unsatisfactory empirical evidence may happen without presence of unsatisfactory empirical evidence may happen without totally dismissing the theory, but simply by slightly modifying it, or totally dismissing the theory, but simply by slightly modifying it, or its model. The ontological status of the entities to which a theory its model. The ontological status of the entities to which a theory refers can be correctly established by considering the different criteria of referentiality.

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