Using conceptual spaces to exhibit conceptual continuity through scientific theory change

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


There is a great deal of justified concern about continuity through scientific theory change. Our thesis is that, particularly in physics, such continuity can be appropriately captured at the level of conceptual frameworks (the level above the theories themselves) using conceptual space models. Indeed, we contend that the conceptual spaces of three of our most important physical theories---Classical Mechanics (CM), Special Relativity Theory (SRT), and Quantum Mechanics (QM)---have already been so modelled as phase-spaces. Working with their phase-space formulations, one can trace the conceptual changes and continuities in transitioning from CM to QM, and from CM to SRT. By offering a revised severity-ordering of changes that conceptual frameworks can undergo, we provide reasons to doubt the commonly held view that CM is conceptually closer to SRT than QM.


External organisations
  • University of Konstanz
  • Slovak Academy of Sciences
  • Institute for Advanced Study, Berlin
  • University of Technology Sydney
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Philosophy
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-150
Number of pages24
JournalEuropean Journal for Philosophy of Science
Issue number1
Early online date2016 Jun 23
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jan
Publication categoryResearch