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Understanding Scientific Theories: An Assessment of Developments, 1969–1998

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 April 2022

Frederick Suppe*
Texas Tech University
Send requests for reprints to the author, Department of Philosophy, Box 43092, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX 79409-3092.


The positivistic Received View construed scientific theories syntactically as axiomatic calculi where theoretical terms were given a partial semantic interpretation via correspondence rules connecting them to observation statements. This paper assesses what, with hindsight, seem the most important defects in the Received View; surveys the main proposed successor analyses to the Received View—various Semantic Conception versions and the Structuralist Analysis; evaluates how well they avoid those defects; examines what new problems they face and where the most promising require further development or leave unanswered questions; explores implications of recent work on models for understanding theories; and rebuts the few criticisms of the Semantic Conception that have surfaced.

Metaphilosophy and the History of the Philosophy of Science
Copyright © 2000 by the Philosophy of Science Association

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I thank Steven French for helpful discussion and access to forthcoming works. Thanks also to other symposium speakers and to Walter Vincenti.


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