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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Milena Ivanova
Elsevier BV, Elsevier
Arts and Humanities, Physics and Astronomy
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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.

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