LCP. Reconstructed theories rely on formal semantics and an interpretation of 'true' modeled on Tarski's semantics. On a semantic level, functioning and reconstructed theories are not the same theory. A functioning theory presupposes the basic semantics of the language of physics. This fits it into a larger unit that is loosely organized through functioning presuppositions. It does not at all fit the logical model of a set of sentences closed under implication. An informal analysis of functioning theories stressing the role of the language of physics should precede and ground formal reconstructions of theories. This requirement, unfortunately, is more easily stated than implemented. At the present stage of development this is best done by case studies.
Case studies of low-level theories would be especially helpful theories. There seems to be a general pattern that such theories are introduced as hypothetical explanations of puzzling phenomena on an observational level. Once accepted and entrenched, they effectively become part of the factual background presupposed in the normal working of physics. Such a process was exhibited in the treatment of ferromagnetism, paramagnetism, diamagnetism, fluorescence, phosphorescence, thermionic emission, Cerenkov radiation, semiconductors, superconductors, and many other phenomena. The same pattern is still at a formative stage in accounts of pulsars, quasars, black holes, x-ray bursters, global warming, stellar formation, planetary rings, and many more topics. The discourse of physics, as earlier noted, presupposes the acceptance of a vast, but not so amorphous, collection of truths about the world. The collection grows through the advancement of physics. In place of the theoretical/observational distinction, a strong candidate for the status of the most misleading distinction in current philosophy of science, functioning physics effectively relies on a distinction between established facts and speculation.
This appraisal has a distinct bearing on the issue of Kuhnian relativism38 Between particular theories and the broad basis of a shared language are units and structures that philosophers and sociologists have analyzed: themes, paradigms, research programs, problem-solving methodologies, self-accrediting communities. These change and the changes affect the interpretation of physics in complex ways. The difficulty comes in labeling such changes ‘conceptual revolutions’ with the implication that today’s truth is tomorrow’s blooper. The basic claims we have been considering are embedded in the language of classical physics. Prior to the emergence of quantum mechanics, which will be treated elsewhere, this has not undergone the sort of conceptual revolution required to support Kuhnian relativism.
3. Ontological Relativity Reconsidered.
When we return to the issues mentioned in the introduction they might seem problematic in a new light. The positions initially considered fall into two opposing groups on the interpretation of 'objectivity'. A shared theme loosely linking deconstruction, the end of philosophy movement, ontological relativity, and the social construction of reality is the interpretation of 'objectivity' in terms of intersubjective agreement. The various realist alternatives share some version of the claim that crucial
38 The term is somewhat misleading. In his final address to the Philosophy of Science Association Kuhn indicated that on the issue fo radical relativism he had more in common with his enemies than his friends. The term, nevertheless, has become established.