Truth, Semantics and Realism - History, Philosophy...

Truth, Semantics and Realism

According to the author's observations, the absolute majority of physicists are adherents of the concept of truth. But in doing so, as a rule, they do not make the slightest attempt to clarify it. And yet the development of physics is incompatible with intuitive notions of truth. Describing the problem of truth, philosophers, as a rule, consider three concepts.

According to the correspondent concept of truth, the statement is true if it corresponds to reality. This definition suggests that knowledge of reality precedes that knowledge that is evaluated for truth and falsity. But this and that knowledge is in the same theory. It turns out a logical circle.

According to the coherent concept of truth, the correct statement must conform organically to other propositions of the theory. But, perhaps, the whole theory is, in the final analysis, false.

According to the pragmatic concept of truth, the position that provides the most effective practical results is correctly recognized. This definition of truth is most suitable for axiological sciences. But physics is not an axiological science.

As you can see, all three definitions of truth are not flawless. Of course, we should not abandon the concept of truth. It is necessary to cull the bankrupt knowledge. Rejection of the concept of truth opens the gate for inferior knowledge. In the opinion of the author, the true should be recognized knowledge, which is organically included in the interpretation of the theory. It does not relate to one theory, but to their interpretation. Already in the composition of one or another system of theories, the question of the correspondence between the linguistic, mental and ontological level of the theory is solved.

As a rule, the question of the relevance of realism (from Latin res - thing) is closely linked with the concept of truth, according to which there are objects, whatever they are of nature. It is often argued that realism presupposes the existence of an objective reality that does not depend on the consciousness of people. But objective reality and objects are not the same thing. If consciousness is studied, then it is an object, but not objective, but subjective. Strictly speaking, realism emphasizes object reality. Already in connection with it, the question of objective reality is often raised.

Usually realists are guided by the correspondent concept of truth. The theory is interpreted as clarifying the truth about reality. One of the prominent contemporary realists S. Psilos to the question "What kind of argument is decisive for realism?" gives this answer: "I do not know of a more informative answer to this question than the following: this is the conclusion to the best explanation."

Realists believe that the development of theories does not call into question their concept. Careful analysis always allows, in the final analysis, to weed out the tares from the grains of truth. In the case of physical theory, it is necessary to clearly distinguish the epistemological means used, on the one hand, and those objects that actually exist. For example, the coordinate system as an epistemological mathematical tool used in physics does not have an object analog. But reference systems do exist.

Does not contradict realism and the existence of not directly observable states and processes. Pure states, which are interpreted by quantum mechanics, are not observed directly. It must, however, be taken into account that the observed phenomena can not be explained without introducing concepts of pure states. Therefore, there is every reason to consider them real.

Their opponents disagree with the arguments of the realists, defending antirealistic attitudes to one degree or another. Let's list their main arguments.

1) Empirical data deserve the greatest confidence, but they are theoretically loaded according to the developments of American philosophers T. Kuhn and W. Quine. In their judgments, people are always limited by theory.

2) Every theory is underdeveloped, because the same experimental data can be explained by means of different

hypotheses, therefore, one can argue reasonably only about experimental data. The underdetermination of physical theories was already noted by P. Duhem. Today the views of Ben van Fraassen are very popular. He summarizes his position as follows: "Science seeks to give us theories that are empirically adequate; The acceptance of the theory involves only the belief that it is empirically adequate. This is the position of the antirealistic position that I stand for; I call it constructive empiricism

3) There is a whole array of arguments in which one or another of the possible imperfections of all possible theories is discussed. In this connection, the legitimacy of the argument for the conclusion to the best explanation is questioned. Imperfect not only theories, but also the ways of their development, be it induction or abduction.

4) Many anti-realists emphasize the dependence of theories on the social context. The truth, according to realists, presupposes independence from this context. Consequently, the position of realists is contradictory.

Let's proceed to the formulation of the author's position.

First, in the physical theory, syntactic, semantic and pragmatic connections are viewed. Syntactics is the interconnection of concepts with each other. Semantics fixes the connection of the levels of science, for example, the relationship of concepts in their linguistic form with concepts in an object form. Pragmatics deals with activities to achieve the goal. Three types of relationships suggest three types of concept of truth. They were just discussed at the very beginning of the section. Corresponding truth refers to semantics, coherent to syntactics, pragmatic to pragmatics.

Secondly, the three concepts of truth express the structure of the theory. They are just as organic to theory as the concepts of variable or law.

Third, the semantic concept of truth expresses the same device, on the one hand, the linguistic and mental levels of science, on the other hand, the objective. In another way, there can not be in principle. Otherwise, the theory has collapsed would.

Fourth, knowledge about objects is always theoretical.

Fifth, even changeable knowledge is evidence of reality.

Sixth, the interchangeability of theories in the composition of the problem and interpretation series testifies to the future growth of scientific knowledge, which will refine our understanding of reality.

Seventh, there is no reason to abandon realism insofar as this is tantamount to an unacceptable rejection of semantics.

Eighth, those authors who recognize that empirical data are explained by theories, in fact, do not deny realism. It's just that they are half-way.

Ninth, the underdetermination of theories is not fatal. It can be safely disposed of.

Fifthly, the dependence of physical theories on social conditions can be taken into account. In this case it is necessary to take into account the semantic aspect, and consequently, the concept of realism.


1. The position is true if it is part of an interpretative series of theories.

2. Insufficient attention to metascientific physics has led to the consolidation of crude concepts of truth and reality in physics.

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