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ULRICH GAHDE

ON I N N E R T H E O R E T I C A L
THEORETICAL

].

CONDITIONS FOR
TERMS

INTRODUCTION*

In his critical article preceding this paper, G. Schurz writes: "Of course,
some terms of a theory can be determined by other ones: but this does
not say anything about their empirical (non-theoretical) nature"? The
aim of the following considerations will be to show that this statement
is simply false. It will be argued: (1) that theoretical terms play a very
special role within the logical structure of empirical theories, (2) that
this role can - at least in part - be characterized by the way these terms
are determined by other terms, (3) that these features can be covered
by innertheoretical conditions, and (4) that, conversely, these conditions can be used as an efficient tool for the distinction of theoretical
terms.
These considerations refer to the fundamental distinction between
intertheoretical and innertheoretical conditions used for the distinction
of theoretical terms. Intertheoretical conditions are characterized by
the fact that for their application several different empirical theories
and their relations have to be analyzed. One may, for example, claim
that T-theoretical terms are distinguished by the fact that their values
can be exclusively obtained with the help of some theory T, whereas
all other theories are not suitable for that task. Obviously, the application of this criterion would require investigations concerning more
than one empirical theory. A typical example for a criterion for theoreticity based on intertheoretical conditions is presented in (Balzer/
Moulines/Sneed, 1987).
Conditions of this type inevitably run into a fundamental methodological problem: On the one hand, the distinction between theoretical and
nontheoretical terms plays a key role in the semiformal characterization
and 'reconstruction' both of empirical theories and the intertheoretical
relations which exist between them. On the other hand, the application
Erkenntnis 32: 215-233, 1990.
1990 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.

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ULR~C~ OA~OE

of these conditions already presupposes rather detailed insights into the


'hierarchy' of these theories. In applying them one thus has to make
use of some pre-explicative concept of empirical theories and their
mutual relations, thus introducing an irreducible amount of speculation
and vagueness into the distinction between theoretical and non-theoretical terms.
No similar methodological problem occurs when innertheoretical conditions are used in the distinction of theoretical terms. They are characterized by the fact that for their application one and only one empirical
theory - like Maxwell's theory of electrodynamics or the theory of
classical mechanics with its specializations - has to be analyzed. The
basic idea behind innertheoretical conditions may be illustrated with
the help of the following analogy: Assume that some spectator watches
a game of chess but is not able to distinguish the figures by their shape.
He nevertheless can still try to identify the figures by means of the role
they play in the game, i.e., by means of the moves they make. In a
similar way innertheoretical conditions try to characterize theoretical
terms by means of the role they play in the logical structure and
dynamics of empirical theories. In general, conditions of that type can
be applied by exclusively formal methods, thus facilitating comparatively precise statements concerning the logical structure of empirical
theories and the role theoretical terms play within them. Although far
less speculative, these conditions have to face another fundamental
problem instead: The problem of how efficient they are, i.e., how much
they can contribute to the unique distinction of theoretical terms.
The following considerations are intended as a plea for the use of
innertheoretical conditions in the distinction of theoretical terms, thus
answering Schurz' article. They focus on two innertheoretical conditions
imposed on sets of theoretical terms. Section 2 contains a brief outline
of the role of theoretical terms in the adaptation of empirical theories
to new intended applications and in their defense against conflicting
measuring data. In Sections 3 and 4 the two innertheoretical requirements are explained. Section 5 deals with the connection between
these two conditions, on the one hand, and the occurrence of holistic
phenomena in empirical theories and the associated empirical claims,
on the other. Section 6 discusses the problem of whether or not the
conjunction of these two conditions suffices for a unique distinction of
theoretical terms. Section 7 contains a short summary.

ON INNERTHEORETICAL

2.

FLEXIBILITY

OF

EMPIRICAL
THEORETICAL

217

CONDITIONS

THEORIES

AND

THE

ROLE

OF

TERMS

Empirical theories show a remarkable flexibility in adapting to new or


modified sets of data. Most theories are conceived for a rather limited
number of intended applications in the beginning. As a theory develops,
new and previously unforeseen applications are considered? In many
cases, a theory will cope successfully with these new tasks, without any
modification in its basic laws. Similarly, for well-known applications
the empirical data may change (by an improvement in measurement
facilities, for example). Again, empirical theories can often be successfully adapted to the modified data without touching their axioms.
This flexibility is caused by a specific cooperation between the central
and peripheral parts of empirical theories. Besides a limited number of
basic laws they have special laws and auxiliary hypotheses at their
disposal. Whereas the basic laws are kept unchanged as long as possible,
the set of special laws and auxiliary hypotheses are continuously modified in order to adapt the theory to new or modified tasks. Within
the structuralist metatheoretical approach technical tools have been
provided which allow for a precise and differentiated analysis of this
cooperation. As is well known, in this approach the informal concept
of an empirical theory is substituted with the two semiformal concepts
theory-element and theory-net. For the following, we shall assume that
the reader is acquainted with these concepts so that we can restrict
ourselves to a short recapitulation.
According to the structuralist approach, a theory-element T is an
ordered pair T=(K, I). K denotes the so-called core which covers the
theory-element's mathematical structure. I is the set of intended applications which corresponds to the class of systems to which this mathemathical apparatus is to be applied. Theory-nets are defined as pairs
N={2P, o-), where 2Pdenotes a set of theory-elements and o- is a specialization-relation defined on 2P. In general, T contains one basic element
To only ('treelike net') and a considerable number of special theoryelements which stand in the relation o- to To. It is not unproblematic
to localize the informal concept of an empirical theory between the
semiformal concepts theory-element and theory-net. As the structuralist
reconstructions of empirical theories, such as classical mechanics or
relativistic electrodynamics, show, however, the informal concept is

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nearer to the concept of a theory-net than to the concept of a theoryelement. In the following when mentioning 'the basic laws of an empirical theory', we refer to the axioms which occur in the set-theoretic
predicate that singles out the models of the corresponding theory-net's
basic element.
With the help of these notions it is possible to substitute the crude
qualitative distinction between central and peripheral parts of an empirical theory with the more informative comparative concept degree of
specialization. This concept can be defined recursively as follows: To
the net's basic element the degree of specialization 0 is assigned. If a
theory element Tj is a direct specialization of theory element Ti, its
degree of specialization equals the degree of specialization of Ti plus
~ne.3
This concept is helpful for the analysis of many theory-dynamic processes. Assume that the empirical claim associated with some theorynet in a certain stage of its development fails, and the net has therefore
to be revised. Revision attempts will then start at 'peripheral' theoryelements - i.e., theory-elements with comparatively high degrees of
specialization. Only after a failure of these attempts successively more
'central' theory elements - i.e., theory-elements with lower degrees of
specialization - are modified. The possibilities of defending a theory-net
against conflicting measurement data are exhausted when the revision
attempts have reached the nets basic element. By making use of the
concepts 'theory-net' and 'degree of specialization' theory-dynamic processes of this type can be trailed and reconstructed in great detail. 4
The following considerations focus on a necessary condition for this
cooperation between a theory's basic and special laws. Assume that all
theoretical terms would be uniquely determined by the theory's axioms. s Furthermore, assume that the theoretical description of an intended application with the help of these axioms fails. 6 In this case the
theory can be defended in one and only one way: the 'problematic'
intended application has to be removed. Otherwise, at least one of the
theory's axioms - and thus, the theory itself- has to be abandoned. In
practice, however, this dramatic case is very rare. For the most part it
is possible to modify details of the theoretical extension of problematic
applications without endangering one of the theory's basic axioms. For
this possibility to occur, the following necessary condition has to be
fulfilled: the theoretical functions used for the extension of the intended
application in question have to be underdetermined by the theory's

ON INNERTHEORETICAL

219

CONDITIONS

axioms in a specific way. This creates the scope with respect to the
theoretical description, which can then be utilized for a modification of
special laws. We shall now take a closer look at the specific underdetermination of the theoretical terms.

3.

FIRST

CONDITION:

THEORETICAL

TERMS

UNDERDETERMINATION
BY

THE

THEORY'S

OF
AXIOMS

In nontechnical language this postulate can be formulated as follows:


" A function which is theoretical with respect to some empirical theory
T cannot be uniquely determined by T-nontheoretical functions with
the help of T's axioms alone". A closer look reveals, however, that
this formulation is ambiguous in more than one sense and has to be
substituted with more precise reformulations. Let us list some of these
reformulations, which correspond to formal explications of different
strength.
The weakest possible reformulation runs as follows: " F o r at least
one partial model there exists at least one theoretical function which is
not uniquely determined by the theory's basic axioms". The fulfillment
of this - extremely weak - condition would already suffice to explain
why empirical theories employ special laws (or constraints) at all: They
are - at least in some partial models - necessary to determine theoretical
functions. However, the importance of special laws (or constraints)
grows in proportion to the number of partial models, for which theoretical functions are not uniquely determined by the axioms.
A stronger reformulation runs as follows: " F o r each theoretical function there exists at least one partial model, such that this theoretical
function is not uniquely determined by the theory's axioms". 7 Obviously, this formulation of the postulate is neatly related to the criterion
of definability as stated by Padoa: The postulate thus reformulated
excludes the possibility that the theoretical functions are definable by
nontheoretical functions via the theory's basic axioms alone. This is not
guaranteed when the weaker formulation mentioned before is used which shows that this version is in fact too weak. It might be of historical
interest to note that this requirement takes up a fundamental postulate
which was imposed on theoretical terms in the dual-level theory of the
scientific language: They had not to be observational terms themselves,
nor definable by observational terms. 8 The postulate stated above can

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be interpreted as a reformulation of this requirement, which was adapted to the structuralist concept by substituting the theoretical/
observational with the theoretical/nontheoretical dichotomy.
Another comparatively strong formulation requires that for each
partial model at least one theoretical function used to extend this partial
model to become a model of the theory, remains underdetermined by
the theory's axioms alone. If this postulate is fulfilled, the theory's
axioms are so 'weak' that for the treatment of each intended application
certain special laws (or/and constraints) have to be used. As was shown
in (G~ihde, 1983), this condition is fulfilled in the case of classical
mechanics. 9
All versions of the informal postulate stated above have one aspect
in common: When used as conditions for the distinction of theoretical
terms they seem to end up in a vicious circle: on the other hand, they
refer explicitly to the set of all nontheoretical terms. On the other
hand, it is precisely with the help of these requirements that the line
between theoretical and nontheoretical terms should be drawn. However, this impression of circularity is misleading. It is generated by an
essential methodological feature shared by all versions of this postulate:
These requirements are not to be applied to theoretical functions in
succession, one after the other. Instead they should be applied to all
theoretical terms simultaneously. In other words: These requirements
cannot be used for finding out whether or not an isolated function is
theoretical with respect to some theory T. Instead, they can help to
single out certain dissections of the set of all functions which occur in
T into two disjoint subsets: the subsets of all T-theoretical and the
subset of all T-nontheoretical functions.
This methodological feature can be readily explained with the aid of
the standard example of the philosophy of science, viz. classical particle
mechanics (CPM). In the following, we refer to the standard structuralist reconstruction of CPM, which uses the axiomatization presented
in (McKinsey/Sugar/Suppes, 1953) in identifying the theory's set of
models. In these models occur three functions: position function s, mass
function m and force function f. Assume that we try to find out for
each of these functions as to whether or not it is CPM-theoretical. Let
us start with f. We have to find out whether f is uniquely determined
by Newton's second law if the CPM-nontheoretical functions are given.
This test cannot be carried through: it is not known, which functions

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221

CONDITIONS

are CPM-nontheoretical. Clearly, in this way the postulate cannot be


applied: It is not suited for the task of identifying the CPM-theoretical
functions in succession. By contrast, the following method proves successful: As a first step all possible dissections of the set of functions
{s, m, f} into two disjoint subsets are formed. The following eight possible dissections are thus obtained:
Case
CPM-theoretical
CPM-nontheoretical

s, m, f

s
m, f

rn
s, f

f
s, m

s, m
f

s,f
m

rn,f
s

8
s, m , f
-

At this first stage of analysis all eight possible dissections have to be


regarded as equal candidates for the theoretical/nontheoretical dichotomy, m and f are in no way privileged compared to s. As a second
step, however, a selection is made from among these eight candidates:
for each of the eight dissections one has to test as to whether or not
the postulate explained above is fulfilled.
Let us illustrate this method with the help of some examples. ~ In
case 4, s and m are assumed to be CPM-nontheoretical on a trial basis,
whereas f is assumed to be CPM-theoretical. It can be easily seen
that in this case all three versions of the postulate are fulfilled: The
abovementioned axiomatization contains but one genuine axiom: Newton's second law. It allows for a splitting of the resulting force function
into component forces of different types (gravitational forces, Coulomb
forces etc.). In case 4, for every partial model for which the positions
and masses of all particles involved are given, the resulting force is
uniquely determined by Newton's second law. Newton 2 alone, however, does not prescribe as to how this resulting force function is to be
split up into component forces. For this task additional special laws
have to be postulated. Thus, all three versions of the postulate are
fulfilled in this case. The same holds with respect to case 7: Here the
mass function rn, the resulting force function f, and the component
forces )~ are - for every partial model - underdetermined by the theory's
only axiom.
Let us now turn to an example in which at least one version of the
postulate is violated. In case 3 the position function s and force function
f are assumed to be CPM-nontheoretical, whereas the mass function m
is assumed to be CPM-theoretical. In this case there would exist some

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GAHDE

partial models for which the functions used to extend these partial
models to become models of CPM would be uniquely determined by
Newton's second law - thus violating version 3 of the abovementioned
postulate.
These examples should suffice to demonstrate how all versions of
condition 1 stated above can be applied without getting into a vicious
circle: They are not to be applied to theoretical terms in succession.
Instead, they are to be interpreted as postulates which are imposed on
all theoretical terms simultaneously.
In this context we have to point to a fundamental misinterpretation
underlying one of Schurz' 'counterexamples': The application of the
innertheoretical condition described above presupposes that empirical
theories (like classical mechanics, thermodynamics etc.) are reconstructed as theory-nets, which consist of one single basic element and
some special theory-elements. This condition refers exclusively and
essentially to the theory's basic axioms and, thus, to the net's basic
element. 11 Although Schurz' explicitly recognizes this point, he nevertheless erroneously applies this condition to a highly specialized theoryelement (SQM1) - about which the condition does not say anything.12
The role of specialized theory-elements is not considered in the first
but in the second innertheoretical condition imposed on theoretical
terms to which we now turn.
4.

SECOND

CONDITION:

DETERMINED

WITH

THEORETICAL
THE

SPECIAL

HELP

OF

TERMS
AXIOMS

CAN

BE

PLUS

LAWS

The first innertheoretical condition imposed on theoretical terms provides a negative answer to the question in what sense T-theoretical
terms come from a certain empirical theory T: They cannot be uniquely
determined with T's axioms alone. By contrast, the second innertheoretical condition contains some positive information as to how theoretical terms can be determined with the help of theory T. In nontechnical
language this condition can be formulated as follows: " A function which
is theoretical with respect to some empirical theory T can be uniquely
determined by the T-nontheoretical functions with the help of T's
axioms plus suitable special laws".
Again, as in the case of condition 1, a closer look reveals that this
formulation is highly ambiguous and has to be substituted with more

ON

INNERTHEORETICAL

CONDITIONS

223

precise reformulations. These reformulations may differ significantly in


terms of their logical strength. The spectrum of possible reformulations
ranges from the rather weak version which only guarantees unique
determinability for at least some theoretical functions in some partial
models, to the exceptionally strong version which requires that, by the
cooperation between axioms and special laws, for all partial models all
theoretical functions can be uniquely determined. 13 Which of these
reformulations is the most adequate can only be decided by analyzing
the results of their application to concrete empirical theories. TM We
shall come back to this point at the end of the final section.
Condition 2 shares with condition 1 a basic methodological feature:
It does not single out theoretical terms in succession, but instead has
to be interpreted as a postulate imposed simultaneously on all theoretical terms. Let us illustrate this again with the help of CPM. In case 7,
on a trial basis, m and f are assumed to be CPM-theoretical, whereas
s is assumed to be CPM-nontheoretical. In this case, for at least some
partial models special laws (like Newton's law of universal gravitation)
can be found which, in cooperation with the theory's axiom, determine
the mass and force functions uniquely up to scale transformations,
whereby this case passes the test of condition 2 (if a comparatively
'weak' version of this condition is used).
With respect to the term 'suitable special law' two alternative interpretations are possible. The first interpretation refers to the specializations which actually occur in the theory net in a certain stage of
development. If this interpretation is chosen, it may not be possible to
settle the question of whether or not a certain function is theoretical
with respect to some theory once and for all. Assume that the values
of a function cannot be determined with the help of the corresponding
theory net in a certain stage of development. As the corresponding
theory net develops, new specializations of its basic element are integrated into the net. Thereby functions, which could not be determined
uniquely before, may now become determinable. This, however, seems
to be intuitively plausible: What one can do with some theory net
depends, of course on the laws that occur (implicitly) in its theory
elements.
The second interpretation of the term 'suitable special law' does not
refer to the specializations factually occurring in the net, but to the set
of 'all possible specializations' instead. If such an interpretation was
possible, it would provide an answer to the question of whether or not

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GAHDE

for a specific partition condition 2 is fulfilled, which is definitive and not


relativized to a theory-net in a certain stage of its development. Clearly,
however, any attempt to supply an interpretation of this type inevitably
runs into a fundamental methodological problem: In order to distinguish the set of 'all possible specializations' one would need a sufficient
criterion for lawlikeness - which is, of course, not at hand. Nevertheless, it is possible to formulate certain necessary conditions to be
fulfilled by statements when used as special laws for empirical theories.
One such condition (which is of special importance in physics) requires
that these statements have to fulfill the invariance principles associated
with the theory in question. All statements that are used as special laws
of classical mechanics, for example, have to be invariant under Galilean
transformations, and all laws of classical electrodynamics have to be
Lorentz-invariant. Although invariance principles may possibly not exclude the whole set of accidental statements, they nevertheless can be
interpreted in such a way that they exclude a rather prominent subset:
the subset of all those statements that refer to concrete space-time
points.
These requirements, however, facilitate only definite negative decisions with respect to condition 2: Assume it can be shown that for
some partition no special laws exist that are both in accordance with
the invariance principles associated with the theory in question and
enable the unique determination of the functions assumed as theoretical
on a trial basis. In this case we can exclude the possibility that for this
partition condition 2 will be fulfilled. The position function in classical
mechanics may serve as an example: Due to the Galilei-invariance of
all special laws it cannot be determined within this theory uniquely,
but only up to invariance transformations. 15 It should be kept in mind,
however, that the second interpretation of the term 'suitable special
law' enables to state only violations of condition 2. By contrast, the
first interpretation enables both positive and negative decisions with
respect to this requirement and should therefore be preferred.
As this paper is primarily intended as a reply to Schurz' criticism, in
presenting the two innertheoretical conditions we have widely refrained
from reference to alternative criteria for theoreticity proposed by other
authors. Nevertheless, a short note concerning the criterion presented
in (Balzer, 1983) and (Balzer, 1985) seems to be indispensable. Unfortunately, several publications have supported the impression that the
postulates used in the formulation of Balzer's criterion could be seen

ON

INNERTHEORETICAL

225

CONDITIONS

as simplified and more elegant reformulations of the two conditions


formulated in my original (G~hde, 1983). Although this impression has
already been corrected in (Diederich, 1989), it seems necessary to
stress once more that and why this view is highly misleading. Balzer's
formulation does not preserve the central intuitive idea behind the
postulates explained above: It does not require that theoretical terms
are underdetermined by the theory's basic axioms and can therefore
only be determined by a specific cooperation between these axioms and
special laws. Furthermore, it does not require that all theoretical terms
have to be distinguished simultaneously. Thus, both with respect to its
content as well as with respect to its formal features, Balzer's criterion
differs essentially from the conditions explained here or in (Gfihde,
1983). As one might well expect, its application to concrete empirical
theories will in general lead to results incompatible with the results
obtained by the application of the conditions explained above. Balzer's
criterion may have some (hidden) merits by its own - these merits,
however, cannot be those the conditions discussed here might have.

5.

INNERTHEORETICAL
OCCURRENCE

OF

CONDITIONS
HOLISTIC

AND

THE

PHENOMENA

In many cases different intended applications of empirical theories


cannot be described in isolation, independent of each other. Instead,
their theoretical extensions may be correlated in varying and complicated ways, thus giving rise to holistic phenomena. The structuralist
metatheoretical apparatus supplies the technical tools (bridge structures)
that allow for a detailed description of how the theoretical descriptions
of different applications are connected. Two types of bridge structures
have to be distinguished: Constraints correlate different (potential)
models of the same theory-element, whereas links can be used to trail
and reconstruct connections between (potential) models of different
theory-elements. By considering constraints and links the multi-elementary set of hypotheses about the theoretical extensions of different
applications is substituted with the complex construction of a Ramseysentence: a comprehensive empirical hypothesis that includes both information concerning the theoretical description of the intended applications in isolation and information concerning the correlations that
exist between them.

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G,~FID E

The following considerations focus on the connection between these


holistic phenomena and the innertheoretical conditions explained
above. A first hint at this connection is provided by the fact that
both the Ramsey-sentence and the conditions refer to exactly the same
situation, i.e., in which all nontheoretical terms are given and certain
requirements are imposed on the missing theoretical functions. The
following arguments confirm this supposition. They show that if condition 1 is violated, all holistic phenomena of the type described above
vanish. 16
This can be shown by the following argument: Assume that some set
of intended applications is to be extended to a set of models in such a
way that, in addition to the theory's basic axioms, certain bridge structures are fulfilled. If the theoretical descriptions of these applications
would already be uniquely determined by the axioms, they could not
be influenced by any further requirement. In particular, they could not
be influenced by the additional requirement that certain bridge structures have to be fulfilled. If, by chance, this additional requirement is
met, it nevertheless cannot influence any detail of the application's
theoretical descriptions. If it cannot be met, there is no way to resolve
the conflict without giving up either bridge structures or at least one
intended application. No matter, whether or not the bridge structures
are fulfilled - they would have lost their power to induce any dependence between the theoretical descriptions of different intended applications.
If condition 1 is fulfilled, the situation is different. Assume that for
some partial models the theoretical functions have been determined
(possibly with the help of suitable special laws; cf. Section 4). By way
of bridge structures values of these functions can be transferred to
different intended applications in which the theoretical functions are
underdetermined by the theory's basic axioms. If, for example, in
the theoretical description of the system sun/earth the sun's mass has
been determined (by making use of Newton 2, Newton's law of universal gravitation, and auxiliary hypotheses), this value can be transferred
to the theoretical description of the system sun/Neptune by means of
the so-called 'identity-constraint' for the mass function, thus influencing
its theoretical description.
The main point of this section can be summarized as follows: The
underdetermination of theoretical functions by the basic axioms of
empirical theories constitutes a necessary condition for the occurrence

ON INNERTHEORETICAL

CONDITIONS

227

of important holistic phenomena: It lays the foundation for the (one


sided or mutual) correlation of the theoretical descriptions of different
applications. 17
6.

NECESSARY

OR

SUFFICIENT

CONDITIONS?

Do the two innertheoretical conditions imposed on the set of theoretical


terms single out exactly one partition for each and every empirical
theory? Does the conjunction of the two conditions constitute a sufficient criterion for theoreticity?
The answer is clearly "No". Firstly, from a purely formal point of
view, there exists no foundation for the belief that the conjunction of
any of the abovementioned versions of the two innertheoretical conditions supplies a unique distinction of exactly one partition in each
case. Secondly, all applications of certain versions of these conditions
to concrete empirical theories carried out so far show that one might
in fact find several different partitions which are in accordance with
both requirements. The analysis of classical mechanics, for example,
yields the following result: The two partitions
Theoretical
Nontheoretical

m, f
s

f
s, m

are in accordance with the versions of the two postulates as stated in


(G/ihde, 1983). is This is a special case insofar as the set of functions
assumed as theoretical in the second partition is a (genuine) subset of
the corresponding set in the first partition. Normally, at least some
partitions which meet the two requirements will overlap only partially.
This means that among these partitions there will be some for which
the distinction of theoretical terms contradicts the intuitive distinction.
In other words: interpreted as a sufficient condition, the conjunction
of the two requirements would supply a criterion for theoreticity that
does not lead to unique results and is too broad at the same time.
These considerations suggest that the two requirements be interpreted as necessary conditions for theoreticity only. By this reinterpretation
the rest of Schurz' 'counterexamples' based on the application of these
conditions to concrete theory-elements become irrelevant (insofar as
they do not already have to be reiected due to their reference to highly-

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specialized theory-elements; compare Section 3). Simultaneously, this


reinterpretation provokes the following question: Although the two
conditions do not suffice for the unique distinction of theoretical terms
to be effected, they nevertheless may be efficient tools in narrowing
down the list of possible candidates for the theoretical/nontheoretical
dichotomy. But: How powerful are they really? How severe are the
restrictions imposed by these two conditions on the set of theoretical
terms?
As one might suppose, the answer depends decisively on which version of the two postulates is used. The first, weak version of condition
1 as stated in Section 3 constitutes but a minimal requirement with
respect to both the flexibility of empirical theories and the occurrence
of holistic phenomena. For most theories it will be fulfilled by a variety
of partitions - among them some which intuitively are clearly unacceptable candidates for the theoretical/nontheoretical distinction. This version is thus too weak to contribute considerably to the selection of the
'right' partition. The second version as stated in Section 3 requires in
essence that theoretical terms cannot be defined by the nontheoretical
terms via the theories' basic axioms alone. An analysis referring to
concrete theories reveals that this version is still rather weak. Similar
to version 1, it can contribute little to making the distinction between
theoretical and nontheoretical terms. By contrast, the third version
turns out to be a rather effective restriction imposed on the set of
theoretical terms; the case of classical mechanics illustrates this point.
By analogous analyses the comparative 'strength' of different versions
of condition 2 can be tested. We shall come back to this point at the
end of the following summary, where a strategy for future research is
outlined.
7. SUMMARY
The preceding sections focused on two innertheoretical conditions imposed on theoretical terms. These conditions characterize essential aspects of the role played by these terms in empirical theories. They thus
provide at least a partial answer to Putnam's challenge. 19 The first
innertheoretical condition requires that theoretical terms be underdetermined by the theory's basic axioms in a specific way (on the assumption that the nontheoretical terms are given). Different versions of this
condition have been discussed. Whereas condition 1 supplies a 'nega-

ON INNERTHEORETICAL

CONDITIONS

229

tive' answer in which sense theoretical terms do not come from a certain
theory, condition 2 provides some 'positive' information: It requires
that theoretical terms can be uniquely determined with the help of the
theory's basic axioms plus suitable special laws. Different interpretations of the term 'suitable special law' have been proposed. Both conditions can be formulated and applied by purely formal methods. Furthermore, they share a fundamental methodological feature: They have
to be imposed on the set of all theoretical terms simultaneously and
cannot be used for distinguishing theoretical terms in succession, one
after the other.
The characteristics of theoretical terms which are articulated by the
two innertheoretical conditions account for essential aspects of the
logical structure and dynamics of empirical theories. Firstly, it has
been shown that the underdetermination of theoretical terms lays the
foundation for the flexibility that allows empirical theories to adapt to
new or modified sets of data and to defend themselves against conflicting data without endangering their basic theoretical assumptions. Secondly, it constitutes a necessary condition for the occurrence of wellknown holistic phenomena: Often, different intended applications cannot be described independently of each other. Instead, the theoretical
description of one application may essentially depend on the theoretical
description of one or more other applications. This interrelation is
possible only because theoretical terms are underdetermined by the
theory's basic axioms, i.e., because condition 1 is fulfilled. Furthermore,
condition 2 guarantees that, at least in some applications, values of
theoretical terms can be obtained. With the help of bridge structures
(constraints and links) these values can be transferred to other applications, thus influencing their theoretical descriptions.
In general, the conjunction of these two conditions does not suffice
to distinguish theoretical terms uniquely. They constitute necessary,
but not sufficient conditions for theoreticity. This suggests searching
for further requirements which, in cooperation with the two conditions
considered in this paper, might serve that purpose. The following concluding remarks give an outlook on this issue.
Additional requirements can be of an innertheoretical, intertheoretical or a still different type. With respect to further innertheoretical
conditions, the situation gives rise to some skepticism: Further requirements of this type, which cover general aspects of the role theoretical

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terms play in empirical theories, are not in sight. Therefore, it seems


rather unlikely that a unique distinction of theoretical terms can be
attained by exclusively using (formal) innertheoretical conditions. We
are thus forced to share Schurz' skeptical attitude in this respect.
This, however, does by not means devalue the innertheoretical conditions explained in this paper - in contrast to the impression generated
by Schurz' remarks. On the contrary: Even a short glance at the enormous variety of different theories involved in the measurement of time,
for example, reveals how far present-day philosophy of science is from
an adequate understanding of the intertheoretical aspects of theoreticity; such an account - although desirable in principle - is a pie in the
sky in the present situation. The same holds with respect to conditions
which refer to the empirical basis of theoretical terms. Schurz' highly
opaque and speculative statements concerning 'empiricity' ("Most
scientists think that time and position in space are empirical...-20)
unwittingly emphasize that point.
By contrast, the technical tools for a detailed metatheoretical analysis
of innertheoretical conditions imposed on the set of theoretical terms
are at hand. Different alternative versions of the two conditions explained informally in the preceding sections should be formally explicated, applied to as many empirical theories as possible, and modified
if necessary. 21 In this respect, Schurz' analysis - in spite of its severe
deficiencies mentioned before - is to be appreciated. The further study
of necessary innertheoretical conditions for theoreticity can, of course,
be no substitute for a future complex criterion of theoreticity, which
involves both innertheoretical and intertheoretical conditions. The
analysis and test of innertheoretical conditions, however, is a step which
can be taken now - and which can be taken on comparatively safe
ground.

NOTES
* I am indebted to Dr. G. Schurz for his stimulating criticism. Furthermore, I would
like to thank Dr. Th. Bartelborth, Prof. W. Diederich, and Prof. C. U. Moulines for
valuable discussions.
1 Cf. Schurz' article in this volume of Erkenntnis, p. 40.
z Simultaneously, certain intended applications may have to be given up. The removal
of partial models which correspond to certain optical phenomena from the set of intended
applications of Newtonian mechanics illustrates this point.

ON I N N E R T H E O R E T I C A L

CONDITIONS

231

3 Comparable with respect to the degree of specialization are only those theory-elements
for which - in one direction or the other - the specialization relation holds (i.e., which
lie on the same branch of the treelike net). The reason for this is that on different
branches of the net specialization may proceed in steps of different size.
4 Cf. (Gghde, 1989), S. 236-245.
5 Formulated in structuralist terminology: For every partial model there is at most one
model of the corresponding net's basic element to which it can be extended by adding
suitable theoretical functions.
6 In this case the corresponding Ramsey sentence cannot be fulfilled.
7 More precisely: "For every functional variable which occurs in the predicate determining the sets of models of the basic element, one can find at least one partial model such
that the following statement holds: The number of functions subsumable under this
variable which can be used to extend this partial model to become a model of the basic
element is unequal one".
8 Cf. (Carnap, 1956).
9 In (Gghde, 1983) we used a reformulation requiring that each partial model can be
extended to more than one model. This version was especially adapted to the case of
classical mechanics. As Schurz remarks, this special version of condition 1 might be too
strong for many empirical theories.
10 For a complete analysis of all eight dissections cf. (G~ihde, 1983).
11 The original formulation of these two conditions in (Gghde, 1983) makes use of a
comparatively old-fashioned terminology and does not use the concept of a theory-net.
Instead, it refers to the basic set-theoretical predicate singling out the theory's set of
models and its 'admissible restrictions'. These restrictions are obtained from the basic
predicate by requiring that certain special laws hold in addition to the theory's basic
axioms.
12 Some of the examples Sehurtz uses in his argumentation against Balzer's criterion (like
SQMI.1, SQM1) are in fact so highly specialized that it seems doubtful that they should
even be representgd in a theory net by separate special theory-elements at all. Against
that, one could argue that they should be viewed as 'technical special cases' of more
general (but still specialized) theory-elements that factually occur in the net. Cf. Schurz,
loc. cit., 33, 38.
13 Of course, the theoretical functions have to be uniquely determinable up to scale
transformations only. The same clause has to be built into any version of condition 1.
How the role of scale transformations can be taken into consideration in the technical
formulation of conditions 1 and 2 is demonstrated in (Gfihde, 1983).
14 It is thereby assumed that for at least some empirical theories we have rather strong
intuitive opinions about the distinction between theoretical and nontheoretical terms.
The reformulations of both conditions should be chosen in such a way that they reproduce,
or at least do not contradict, these intuitive distinctions.
as By making use of the axiom of CPM and a special law for the force function Newton's
equation of motion can be formulated. The position function can be obtained from this
differential equation only if suitable constants of integration are supplied. The choice of
these constants implies the distinction of a certain frame of reference, to which the
description of the physical system refers. The distinction of a certain frame of reference,
however, is not supplied by classical mechanics: It treats all inertial systems as equal,

232

ULRICH

GAHDE

thus leaving the position function essentially underdetermined. This is precisely what is
meant by stating that "a uniquely determined position function does not come from
classical mechanics".
16We thereby refer to the weakest version of condition 1 as stated in Section 3.
a7 With respect to the holistic phenomena described in this section two possible major
modifications of the innertheoretical conditions explained in Sections 3 and 4 should be
taken into consideration. The first modification consists in an essential tightening ot
postulate 1: It requires that the theoretical functions be underdetermined not only b)
the theory's basic axioms but by these axioms plus the constraints which occur in the
corresponding net's basic element. As each potential model is an element of each constraint by definition, this modification is ineffective with respect to intended applications
in isolation. With respect to more elementary sets of applications, however, the modification is highly effective. Whereas the first modification tightens condition 1, the second
modification liberalizes condition 2. This liberalized version requires that theoretical
functions can be uniquely determined with the help of special laws plus constraints. I1
allows for the case that information gained in the theoretical description of one application
may be transferred via constraints to some other application where it may help tc
determine the values of one or more theoretical functions. This modification would thu~,
allow for a 'holistic cooperation' in the determination of theoretical terms.
18 Schurz' diverging result with respect to classical mechanics is due to his identification
of invariance transformations with scale transformations. This identification, however, is
highly implausible as the significance of both types of transformations is essentially
different: Invariance transformations refer to the choice of a certain frame of reference,
whereas scale transformations refer to the choice of a certain system of units. Although
both types of transformations may resemble each other with respect to their formal
features, they should therefore be clearly distinguished.
19 Compare (Putnam, 1962).
20 Cf. p. 9 in Schurz' article preceding this paper.
21 In particular, in these analyses the versions which refer to the 'holistic' determination
of theoretical functions should be considered; compare note 17.

REFERENCES
Balzer, W.: 1985, 'On a New Definition of Theoreticity', Dialectica 39, 127-45.
Balzer, W.: 1986, 'Theoretical Terms: A New Perspective', Journal of Philosophy 83,
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Balzer, W., C. U. Moulines and J. D. Sneed: 1987, An Architectonic for Science, Reidel,
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Carnap, R.: 1956, 'The Methodological Character of Theoretical Concepts', in H. Feigl
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Diederich, W.: 1989 'The Development of Structuralism. A Reevaluation on the Occasion
of W. Stegmiiller's Theorie und Erfahrung, pt. 3', Erkenntnis 30, 363-86.
G~thde, U.: 1983, T-Theoretizitiit und Holismus, Peter Lang, Frankfurt/Main, Bern.

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233

G/~hde, U. : 1989, 'Theorie und Hypothese - Zur Eingrenzung von Konftikten zwischen
Theorie und Erfahrung', Habilitationsschrift Bielefeld 1989 (unpubl.).
McKinsey, J. C. C., A. C. Sugar, and P. Suppes: 1953, 'Axiomatic Foundations of
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Manuscript received 22 Sept. 1989
Institut f-fir Philosophie
Freie Universit~it Berlin
1000 Berlin 33
West Germany