In his Scientific Representation (2008), van Fraassen argues that measuring is a form of representation. In fact, every measurement pinpoints its target in accordance with specific operational rules within an already-constructed theoretical space, in which certain conceptual interconnections can be represented. Reichenbach’s 1920 account of coordination is particularly interesting in this connection. Even though recent reassessments of this account do not do full justice to some important elements lying behind it, they do have the merit of focusing on a different aspect of his early work that traditional interpretations of relativized a priori principles have unfortunately neglected in favour of a more “structural” role for coordination. In Reichenbach’s early work, however, the idea of coordination was employed not only to indicate theory-specific fundamental principles such as the ones suggested in the literature on conventional principles in science, but also to refer to more “basic” assumptions. In Reichenbach, these principles are preconditions both of the individuation of physical magnitudes and of their measurement, and, as such, they are necessary to approach the world in the first instance. This paper aims to reassess Reichenbach’s approach to coordination and to the representation of physical quantities in light of recent literature on measurement and scientific representation.
There has recently been a renewed interest in philosophy among some psychologists, particularly those working within the modern behavior analytic framework known as contextual behavioral science. Functional contextualism (FC) has emerged as an alternative to the dominant mechanistic view – generally associated with epistemological realism—within psychology. The most controversial feature of FC has been its so-called “a-ontological” stance, in which it is argued that any statements about even the mere existence of a reality independent of human sensation are meaningless. We argue that FC in fact requires the assumption of the existence of such a “reality,” which we term an “independent, textured substratum,” if it is to serve as an orienting function for psychological science. Moreover, wholesale rejection of any reference to any ontological dimension is itself incommensurate with the analytic goals of FC in that it unnecessarily alienates scientists who might otherwise find value in the sensitivities of FC.
In The Theory of Relativity and A Priori Knowledge (1920b), Reichenbach developed an original account of cognition as coordination of formal structures to empirical ones. One of the most salient features of this account is that it is explicitly not a top-down type of coordination, and in fact it is crucially “directed” by the empirical side. Reichenbach called this feature “the mutuality of coordination” but, in that work, did not elaborate sufficiently on how this is supposed to work. In a paper that he wrote less than two years afterwards (but that he published only in 1932), “The Principle of Causality and the Possibility of its Empirical Confirmation” (1923/1932), he described what seems to be a model for this idea, now within an analysis of causality that results in an account of scientific inference. Recent reassessments of his early proposal do not seem to capture the extent of Reichenbach’s original worries. The present paper analyses Reichenbach’s early account and suggests a new way to look at his early work. According to it, we perform measurements, individuate parameters, collect and analyse data, by using a “constructive” approach, such as the one with which we formulate and test hypotheses, which paradigmatically requires some simplicity assumptions. Reichenbach’s attempt to account for all these aspects in 1923 was obviously limited and naive in many ways, but it shows that, in his view, there were multiple ways in which the idea of “constitution” is embodied in scientific practice.
The problem of measurement is a central issue in the epistemology and methodology of the physical sciences. In recent literature on scientific representation, large emphasis has been put on the “constitutive role” played by measurement procedures as forms of representation. Despite its importance, this issue hardly finds any mention in writings on constitutive principles, viz. in Michael Friedman׳s account of relativized a priori principles. This issue, instead, was at the heart of Reichenbach׳s analysis of coordinating principles that has inspired Friedman׳s interpretation. This paper suggests that these procedures should have a part in an account of constitutive principles of science, and that they could be interpreted following the intuition originally present (but ultimately not fully developed) in Reichenbach׳s early work.
Monestès and Villatte take issue with our contention that, contra strong claims of “a-ontology” associated with functional contextualism, science requires the assumption of a world, independent of our theories of it, with its own specific character. However, their primary criticism confounds the goals of science and associated criteria to evaluate those goals on the one hand with the forces that shape the behavior of the phenomena of interest on the other. We clarify this and other issues, and stand by our criticisms of stronger versions of a-ontology.
In recent years, Reichenbach’s 1920 conception of the principles of coordination has attracted increased attention after Michael Friedman’s attempt to revive Reichenbach’s idea of a “relativized a priori”. This paper follows the origin and development of this idea in the framework of Reichenbach’s distinction between the axioms of coordination and the axioms of connection. It suggests a further differentiation among the coordinating axioms and accordingly proposes a different account of Reichenbach’s “relativized a priori”.