Monday, March 30, 2009
SVT: Original and Continuing Motivation
At the recent MS3 meeting, I gave a brief presentation on Pat Suppes contributions to thinking about models. One point is relevant to Contessa’s question about the original arguments in favor of the SVT over the statement view. At least two of the three founders of the SVT, Suppes and Beth (the third was Arthur Burks), were much concerned with the foundations of physics, Suppes with classical mechanics and Beth with quantum theory. They found attempting reconstructions in first (or even second) order logic to be impossibly cumbersome. The physics gets lost in the logic. To be convinced of this, one need only look at Richard Montague’s 1962 first order reconstruction of classical mechanics. [Deterministic Theories. In Formal Philosophy and Selected Papers of Richard Montague, ed. R. H. Thomason, 303-59. New Haven, Yale University Press, 1974.] As I remember, one can barely make out F= ma in something like Axiom 24. Set Theory and State Spaces are far more perspicuous than first order formulae. van Fraassen, who was inspired by Beth, had a similar motivation. The general idea of getting the philosophy of science closer to the science has been for me, and I think many others, a major attraction of the SVT, even though the primary interest has been understanding the actual practice of science rather than the foundations of theories.