THE PHENOMENON OF EQUIVALENT DESCRIPTIONS AND THE PROBLEM OF PHYSICAL REALITY

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Transliteration of original Title: 
Fenomen ekvivalentnyh opisaniy i problema fizicheskoy real’nosti
Author(s): 
Marina Chernakova
Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences
Issue number: 
No. 3 (Vol. 41)
Pages: 
172-190
Abstract: 

The article is devoted to the philosophical analysis of the phenomenon of the coexistence of the empirically equivalent theories in physical knowledge. These theories equally well describe the empirical data in the same subject area, but differ from each other by the mathematical apparatus and/or postulated ontology of the fundamental objects. The choice between them is one of the most difficult challenges in achieving the objectively true knowledge about the studied region of reality. The article considers three types equivalent theories. The first type are temporarily equivalent theories - the emergence of new experimental data allows to choose one of them as the true and reject a false theory. Equivalent theories of the second type in the course of development of science find that one theory is applicable only in a limited area of reality, while the other can be extended to a new, more wide area of physical reality. Equivalent theories of the third type can not be evaluated in the foreseeable future by means of experiment on the validity/falsity. The empirical equivalence of the first and second types is temporary, and the equivalence of the third type is constant. We analyze the characteristics of solving of the problem of choosing between competing descriptions for all three types of empirically equivalent theories. Solutions can be found by: 1) the search of non-empirical criteria of the truth of the theory, 2) revision ability of the scientific theories give us the real picture of the non-observed physical reality, 3) revise the structure of physical reality in non-observed field of phenomena.

Keywords: 
empirically equivalent theories, philosophy of physics, scientific realism, scientific antirealism
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