Conventionalism, structuralism and neo-Kantianism in Poincaré׳s philosophy of science

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Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, ISSN: 1355-2198, Vol: 52, Page: 114-122

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Ivanova, Milena
Elsevier BV; Elsevier
Arts and Humanities; Physics and Astronomy
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article description
Poincaré is well known for his conventionalism and structuralism. However, the relationship between these two theses and their place in Poincaré׳s epistemology of science remain puzzling. In this paper I show the scope of Poincaré׳s conventionalism and its position in Poincaré׳s hierarchical approach to scientific theories. I argue that for Poincaré scientific knowledge is relational and made possible by synthetic a priori, empirical and conventional elements, which, however, are not chosen arbitrarily. By examining his geometric conventionalism, his hierarchical account of science and defence of continuity in theory change, I argue that Poincaré defends a complex structuralist position based on synthetic a priori and conventional elements, the mind-dependence of which precludes epistemic access to mind-independent structures.