Waves and Scientific Method

PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1992:193 - 204 (1992)
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Laudan and Cantor maintain that there exists a methodological gulf between 19th century wave theorists of light, who employed a method of hypothesis, and 18th and 19th century particle theorists, who were inductivists. This paper examines how in fact wave theorists typically argued for their theory, in order to see to what extent their reasoning corresponds to the method of hypothesis or to inductivism in sophisticated versions of these doctrines offered by Whewell and Mill. It also examines how, given the methodology they actually employed, wave theorists could in principle deal with anomalies to their theory, particularly with phenomena, such as dispersion, which their theory could not explain.



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Peter Achinstein
Johns Hopkins University

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