Structuralism, Empiricism, and Newman's Objection


  • Otávio Bueno Department of Philosophy, University of Miami USA
  • Thomas Meier Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich. Ludwigstrasse 31, 80539, Germany



Newman’s objection can be used to argue that structuralism fails to specify a unique structure for the unobservable world, and hence, one can argue, it is ultimately a trivial task to determine the structure that the world ultimately has. Provided there are enough objects, any structure can be made compatible with that structure. We formulate a pragmatically enriched version of structuralism that avoids the Newman objection. For this purpose, we return to Carnap’s conception of founded relations, and provide a different interpretation of them. According to Carnap, these are real, experienceable, physical relations. We argue that, when we specify a structural description of a given physical system, if we rely on such founded relations—provided they are properly understood—the threat of the Newman objection is avoided. However, pure structuralism has to be given up, and a form of empiricism can then be advanced. Finally, by using founded relations, we offer a framework in terms of which different conceptions (some realist, some empiricist) can be articulated to avoid the Newman problem as well.

Author Biographies

Otávio Bueno, Department of Philosophy, University of Miami USA

Professor in Department of Philosophy, University of Miami

Thomas Meier, Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich. Ludwigstrasse 31, 80539, Germany

Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy, Ludwig-Maximilians University


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