Research Seminar: Eran Tal
March 20 @ 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Eran Tal, Philosophy Department, McGill University
Tal’s current work focuses on the philosophy of measurement, an area within philosophy of science that deals with the concepts and problems involved in designing, operating and interpreting measurement procedures in the natural and social sciences. His studies are informed by the history and current practice of the relevant scientific disciplines, and particularly by the methods of metrology, the science of measurement and standardization. In recent years he has been developing a model-based epistemology of measurement that highlights the roles of idealization, abstraction and prediction in establishing measurement outcomes. He is also interested in the conceptual foundations of psychometrics, and in the ethical and social implications of measurement in biomedical research, climate science and criminal justice. His other areas of interest include general epistemology, sociology of science, philosophy of physics and philosophy of mathematics. He is the author of the entry ‘Measurement in Science’ in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and has published articles in the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Science , and Measurement, among others.
Title: Individuating Quantities
When discrepancies are discovered between the outcomes of different measurement procedures, two sorts of explanation are open to scientists. Either (i) some of the outcomes are inaccurate or (ii) the procedures are not measuring the same quantity. I argue that, due to the possibility of systematic error, the choice between (i) and (ii) is underdetermined in principle by any possible evidence. Consequently, foundationalist criteria of quantity individuation are either empty or circular. I propose a coherentist, model-based account of measurement that avoids the underdetermination problem, and use this account to explain how scientists individuate quantities in practice.
Coffee, tea, cookies, and sandwiches will be available.