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Invariance, Structure, Measurement – Eino Kaila and the History of Logical Empiricism

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Abstract

Eino Kaila's thought occupies a curious position within the logical empiricist movement. Along with Hans Reichenbach, Herbert Feigl, and the early Moritz Schlick, Kaila advocates a realist approach towards science and the project of a “scientific world conception”. This realist approach was chiefly directed at both Kantianism and Poincaréan conventionalism. The case in point was the theory of measurement. According to Kaila, the foundations of physical reality are characterized by the existence of invariant systems of relations, which he called structures. In a certain sense, these invariant structures, he maintained, are constituted in the act of measuring. By “constitution”, however, Kaila meant neither the dependency of the objects of measurement on a priori concepts (or Kantian categories) nor their being effected by conventional stipulations in a Poincaréan sense. He held that invariant structures are, quite literally, real: they exist prior to and independently of our theoretical capacity. By executing measurements, invariant structures are detected and objectively determinable by laws of nature.

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