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  • Frame Theory

    Two of the post-doc positions I held were funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) for philosophy of science projects that utilised frame theory. What is frame theory? A frame is a hierarchical structure that represents ordinary and scientific concepts by a recursive system of attributes each of which takes a range of values (Barsalou, 1992). The recursiveness of the system becomes apparent when one realises that the nodes of a given frame may themselves be analysed into further frames. One of frame theory’s strengths is its ability to lay bare the inner structure of scientific concepts (Andersen, Barker and Chen 2006). This facilitates the task of comparing scientific theories because one can examine with relative ease whether frame-theoretically explicated concepts, their attributes and their values share structure. Such comparisons can reveal to what extent, if at all, two or more concepts are continuous and whether these concepts are incompatible and even radically incommensurable. As philosophers of science we find this ability very useful because one of the central aims of our discipline is to discover how scientific concepts of successive theories (and their respective ontologies) are related. Two case studies that came out of the aforementioned projects concern the continuties and discontinuities between the concepts of (a) phlogiston and oxygen (see Schurz and Votsis 2014) and (b) caloric and kinetic energy (see Votsis and Schurz 2012).

    Andersen, H., Barker, P., & Chen, X. (2006) The cognitive structure of scientific revolutions, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Barsalou, L. W. (1992) 'Frames, concepts, and conceptual fields', In A. Lehrer & E. F. Kittay (Eds.), Frames, fields, and contrasts (pp. 21–74). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Schurz, G. & I. Votsis (2014) 'Reconstructing Scientific Theory Change by Means of Frames', in T. Gamerschlag et al. (eds.), Frames and Concept Types, Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy, vol. 94, Springer, pp. 93-109.

    Votsis, I & G. Schurz (2012) 'A Frame-Theoretic Analysis of Two Rival Conceptions of Heat', Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, vol. 43(1): 105-114.