Making Contact with Observations

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Votsis, Ioannis
conference paper description
In this paper I argue contrary to Bogen and Woodward that data serve as evidence for theories, not only for phenomena. Bogen and Woodward seem to forget the old Duhemian dictum that ‘theories cannot be tested in isolation’. That is, they seem to forget that theories require the help of auxiliary hypotheses to make contact with data. When augmented with suitable auxiliaries, theories do entail, predict and potentially explain the data. I say ‘potentially explain the data’ because my focus in this paper is only on the inferential and predictive relations between theories, phenomena and data. To demonstrate my claim I examine four cases from physics, chemistry and astronomy: (i) a controversy between Lavoisier and Priestley, (ii) the calculation of lead’s melting point, (iii) the prediction of the Poisson spot and (iv) the discovery of Neptune.