This talk addresses the question what it is to interpret a formalism. It aims to provide a general framework for talking about interpretations (of various kinds) in a rigorous way. First, I clarify what I mean by a formalism. Second, I give an account of what it is to establish a link between a formalism and data. For this purpose, I draw on the theory of relational databases to explicate what data schemas and collections of data are. I introduce the notion of an interpretive link using tools from mathematical logic. Third, I address the question how a formalism can be interpreted in a way that goes beyond a connection to data. The basic idea is that one extends a data schema to an ontological conceptual schema and links the formalism to this extended schema. I illustrate this account of interpretation by means of simple examples and highlight how it can be fruitfully applied to address conceptual problems in philosophy of science.
Philosophy of Physics Seminar Convenors for HT19: James Read and Simon Saunders