Scientific formalism

Scientific Formalism

Scientific formalism

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Scientific formalism is a broad term for a family of approaches to the presentation of science. It is viewed as an important part of the scientific method, especially in the physical sciences.

Levels of formalism

There are multiple levels of scientific formalism possible. At the lowest level, scientific formalism deals with the symbolic manner in which the information is presented. To achieve formalism in a scientific theory at this level, one starts with a well defined set of axioms, and from these follows a formal system.

However, at a higher level, scientific formalism also involves consideration of the axioms themselves. These can be viewed as questions of ontology. For example, one can, at the lower level of formalism, define a property called 'existence'. However, at the higher level, the question of whether an electron exists in the same sense that a bacterium exists still needs to be resolved.

Some actual formal theories on facts have been proposed.

In modern physics

The scientific climate of the twentieth century revived these questions. From about the time of Isaac Newton to that of James Clerk Maxwell they had been dormant, in the sense that the physical sciences could rely on the status of the real numbers as a description of the continuum, and an agnostic view of atoms and their structure. Quantum mechanics, the dominant physical theory after about 1925, was formulated in a way...
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