It is argued that, contrary to prevailing opinion, Bas van Fraassen nowhere uses the argument from underdetermination in his argument for constructive empiricism. It is explained that van Fraassen’s use of the notion of empirical equivalence in The Scientific Image has been widely misunderstood. A reconstruction of the main arguments for constructive empiricism is offered, showing how the passages that have been taken to be part of an appeal to the argument from underdetermination should actually be interpreted.
I show why Michael Friedman’s idea that we should view new constitutive frameworks introduced in paradigm change as members of a convergent series introduces an uncomfortable tension in his views. It cannot be justified on realist grounds, as this would compromise his Kantian perspective, but his own appeal to a Kantian regulative ideal of reason cannot do the job either. I then explain a way to make better sense of the rationality of paradigm change on what I take to be (...) Friedman’s own terms. (shrink)
Galileo proposed what has been called a proto-inertial principle, according to which a body un horizontal motion will conserve its motion. This statement is only true in counterfactual circumstances where no impediments are present. This paper analyzes how Galileo could have been justified in ascribing definite properties to this idealized motion. This analysis is then used to better understand the relation of Galileo’s proto-inertial principle to the classical inertial principle.
In this article we criticize two recent articles that examinethe relation between explanation and unification. Halonen and Hintikka (1999), on the one hand,claim that no unification is explanation. Schurz (1999), on the other hand, claims that all explanationis unification. We give counterexamples to both claims. We propose a pluralistic approach to the problem:explanation sometimes consists in unification, but in other cases different kinds of explanation(e.g., causal explanation) are required; and none of these kinds is more fundamental.
Recent years saw the rise of an interest in the roles and significance of thought experiments in different areas of human thinking. Heisenberg's gamma ray microscope is no doubt one of the most famous examples of a thought experiment in physics. Nevertheless, this particular thought experiment has not received much detailed attention in the philosophical literature on thought experiments up to date, maybe because of its often claimed inadequacies. In this paper, I try to do two things: to provide an (...) interesting interpretation of the roles played by Heisenberg's gamma ray microscope in interpreting quantum mechanics – partly based on Thomas Kuhn’s views on the function of thought experiments – and to contribute to the ongoing discussions on the roles and significance of thought experiments in physics. (shrink)
In the past 25 years, many philosophers have endorsed the view that the practical value of causal knowledge lies in the fact that manipulation of causes is a good way to bring about a desired change in the effect. This view is intuitively very plausible. For instance, we can predict a storm on the basis of a barometer reading, but we cannot avoid the storm by manipulating the state of the barometer (barometer status and storm are effects of a common (...) cause, viz. atmospheric conditions). In §1 we present textual evidence which shows that this view is very popular. In §2 we show that this standard view is too restrictive: the practical value of causal knowledge is wider. In §3 we introduce the distinction between ‘manipulative policy’ and ‘selective policy’ as a theoretical framework to account for this wider practical value. (shrink)
In this article we criticize two recent articles that examine the relation between explanation and unification. Halonen and Hintikka (1999), on the one hand, claim that no unification is explanation. Schurz (1999), on the other hand, claims that all explanation is unification. We give counterexamples to both claims. We propose a pluralistic approach to the problem: explanation sometimes consists in unification, but in other cases different kinds of explanation (e.g., causal explanation) are required; and none of these kinds is more (...) fundamental. (shrink)
The novel use of symbolism in early modern mathematics poses both philosophical and historical questions. How can we trace its development and transmission through manuscript sources? Is it intrinsically related to the emergence of symbolic algebra? How does symbolism relate to the use of diagrams? What are the consequences of symbolic reasoning on our understanding of nature? Can a symbolic language enable new forms of reasoning? Does a universal symbolic language exist which enable us to express all knowledge? This book (...) brings together a collection of papers that address all these and related questions which were initially posed at a conference held in Ghent (Belgium) in August 2009. Scholars working on philosophy of science, history of philosophy and history of mathematics provide an insight into the role and function of symbolic representations in the development of early modern mathematics. The papers cover the period from early abbaco arithmetic and algebra (14h century) up to Leibniz (early 18th century). (shrink)
How Galileo Galilei discovered the law of fall, and the difference that this makesGalileo’s law of fall is one of the crucial building blocks of classical mechanics. The question how this law was discovered has often been a topic of debate. This article offers a reconstruction of the developments within Galileo’s research that led to the discovery of the law. This reconstruction is offered to make a philosophical point regarding the epistemic status of experimental results: Galileo’s experiments can offer sufficient (...) justification for the acceptance of the law of fall only because of their place in a broad research programme. (shrink)
We introduce the question whether there are specific kinds of writing modalities and practices that facilitated the development of modern science and mathematics. We point out the importance and uniqueness of symbolic writing, which allowed early modern thinkers to formulate a new kind of questions about mathematical structure, rather than to merely exploit this structure for solving particular problems. In a very similar vein, the novel focus on abstract structural relations allowed for creative conceptual extensions in natural philosophy during the (...) scientific revolution. These preliminary reflections are meant to set the stage for the following contributions in this volume. (shrink)
The concept of impetus denoted the transmission of a power from the mover to the object moved. Many authors resorted to this concept to explain why a projectile keeps on moving when no longer in contact with its initial mover. But its application went further, as impetus was also appealed to in attempts to explain the acceleration of falling bodies or the motion of the heavens. It was widely applied in Renaissance natural philosophy, but it also raised a number of (...) ontological questions concerning its precise nature. (shrink)
The introduction of laws of nature is often seen as one of the hallmarks of the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century. The new sciences are thought to have introduced the revolutionary idea that explanations of natural phenomena have to be grounded in exceptionless regularities of universal scope, i. e. laws of nature. The use of legal terminology to talk about natural regularities has a longer history, though. This article traces these earlier uses.
Horology refers to the measurement of time, as well as the art of building instruments with which to study and measure time. There were two important developments in the early modern period: the dramatic improvement of the quality of mechanical clocks due to highly skilled craftsmen, and the introduction of the pendulum as time-keeper in the escapement mechanism. The latter innovation not only allowed a further jump in precision, it also had important conceptual implications.
Akin to the mathematical recreations, John Wilkins' Mathematicall Magick (1648) elaborates the pleasant, useful and wondrous part of practical mathematics, dealing in particular with its material culture of machines and instruments. We contextualize the Mathematicall Magick by studying its institutional setting and its place within changing conceptions of art, nature, religion and mathematics. We devote special attention to the way Wilkins inscribes mechanical innovations within a discourse of wonder. Instead of treating ‘wonder’ as a monolithic category, we present a typology, (...) showing that wonders were not only recreative, but were meant to inspire Wilkins' readers to new mathematical inventions. (shrink)
In this paper I challenge Paolo Palmieri’s reading of the Mach-Vailati debate on Archimedes’s proof of the law of the lever. I argue that the actual import of the debate concerns the possible epistemic (as opposed to merely pragmatic) role of mathematical arguments in empirical physics, and that construed in this light Vailati carries the upper hand. This claim is defended by showing that Archimedes’s proof of the law of the lever is not a way of appealing to a non-empirical (...) source of information, but a way of explicating the mathematical structure that can represent the empirical information at our disposal in the most general way. (shrink)
Starting with a discussion of what I call Koyré’s paradox of conceptual novelty, I introduce the ideas of Damerow et al. on the establishment of classical mechanics in Galileo’s work. I then argue that although the view of Damerow et al. on the nature of Galileo’s conceptual innovation is convincing, it misses an essential element: Galileo’s use of the experiments described in the first day of the Two New Sciences. I describe these experiments and analyze their function. Central to my (...) analysis is the idea that Galileo’s pendulum experiments serve to secure the reference of his theoretical models in actually occurring cases of free fall. In this way Galileo’s experiments constitute an essential part of the meaning of the new concepts of classical mechanics. (shrink)
The debate between realism and antirealism has been central in the general philosophy of science of the last decades. But ever since the heydays of the debate in the 1980s, there have been authors who have tried to argue for the overcoming or dissolution of the debate itself, by proposing a position that is neither realist nor antirealist. Prominent among these is Joseph Rouse (Rouse 1987). Yet, Jeff Kochan has recently argued that Rouse, despite his efforts to transcend the realism/antirealism (...) debate through his universal practical hermeneutics, ends up an implicit realist (Kochan 2011). Kochan furthermore uses this as an occasion to rectify what he sees as Rouse’s influential but misleading interpretation of .. (shrink)