Criteria of Empirical Significance: A Success Story
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The sheer multitude of criteria of empirical significance has been taken as evidence that the pre-analytic notion being explicated is too vague to be useful. I show instead that a significant number of these criteria—by Ayer, Popper, Przełęcki, Suppes, and David Lewis, among others—not only form a coherent whole, but also connect directly to the theory of definition, the notion of empirical content as explicated by Ramsey sentences, and the theory of measurement; a criterion by Carnap is trivial, but can be saved and connected to the other criteria by slight modifications. A corollary is that the ordinary language defense of Lewis, the conceptual arguments by Ayer and Popper, the theoretical considerations by Przełęcki, and the practical considerations by Suppes all apply to the same criterion or closely related criteria. The equivalences of some criteria allows for their individual justifications to be taken cumulatively and suggest a variety of further lines of inquiry, for instance into analyticity and empirical equivalence. The inferential relations between the non-equivalent criteria suggest comparative notions of empirical significance. In a short case study, I discuss the debate about realism, structural realism, and antirealism.