A Case for Old-Fashioned Observability, and a Reconstructed Constructive Empiricism

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Chang, Hasok
conference paper description
I develop a concept of observability that pertains to qualities rather than objects: a quality is observable if it can be registered by human sensation (possibly with the aid of instruments) without involving optional interpretations. This concept supports a better description of observations in science and everyday life than the object-based observability concepts presupposing causal information-transfer from the object to the observer. It also allows a rehabilitation of the traditional empiricist distinction between observations and their interpretations, but without a presumption that observations are infallible. Using this concept of observability, I also propose a re-formulation of constructive empiricism that is easier to defend against realist attacks, while open to reasonable realist intuitions.