Abstract

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.