This paper analyzes the generation and function of hitherto ignored or misrepresented interfield theories , theories which bridge two fields of science. Interfield theories are likely to be generated when two fields share an interest in explaining different aspects of the same phenomenon and when background knowledge already exists relating the two fields. The interfield theory functions to provide a solution to a characteristic type of theoretical problem: how are the relations between fields to be explained? In solving this problem (...) the interfield theory may provide answers to questions which arise in one field but cannot be answered within it alone, may focus attention on domain items not previously considered important, and may predict new domain items for one or both fields. Implications of this analysis for the problems of reduction and the unity and progress of science are mentioned. (shrink)
Significantly, Berkeley, in his Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision, leveled a sustained attack on just this geometrical theory of distance perception. At first glance it may seem, as it did to Berkeley, that Descartes’ geometrical theory is produced by a simple error: namely, by the idea that a physiological optics provides an adequate description of the psychological processes of judging distances. In truth, this is the weakest of Berkeley’s objections to Descartes’ theory. Obviously we do not see the (...) angles and lines of convergence when we focus on a distant object, nor are we aware of having used any geometrical rules in judging distance. And Descartes never claimed this. (shrink)
By using case studies from the history of science as evidence for its claims, the philosophy of science can develop a more productive relation to its subject matter, the history of science. As might be expected, many problems involving the relation between theory and evidence in science reappear here as methodological problems about the relation between the philosophy of science and the history of science. For example, the most important of these difficulties involves the "contamination" of historical evidence by philosophical (...) theories. The difficulty may be resolved as follows: the history of science is "theory-laden", but not necessarily with the solutions to the problems it poses for philosophers. As a result, case studies can be used to test our explanatory theories about science as long as those case studies have not yet been reconstructed by the theory they are meant to test. Furthermore, once an explanatory theory has been " well -supported", we can, using that theory, go on to reconstruct case studies. Such a theory would thereby take on the force of a normative claim about science, bypassing what has been viewed as a fundamental disjunction between the descriptive and normative function of theory. From this point of view, insistence on a single criterion of demarcation as a "ground" for philosophical claims is misguided, since it prejudges a still -open question--is science homogeneous?--that can only be answered by further investigation of science. (shrink)
The doctrine of primary qualities is commonly explained as science's return to a former ideal of mathematical intelligibility and as a sacrifice of the notion that we can be certain about what we perceive. According to the standard chronicle modern scientific explanations appeal to geometrically intelligible, yet theoretically imperceptible, particles. This thesis gains plausibility only by suppressing the role of physiological optics in the development of modern science. Descartes presented an original and significant theory of scientific observation in his Dioptrics; (...) according to which, correct perceptual judgments can be made about the spatial qualities of any body, even about bodies so small as to be imperceptible under ordinary circumstances. This theory insured the perceptual accessibility of the spatial qualities of minute bodies but failed, as Locke discovered upon adding solidity to the list of primary qualities, to explain access to non-spatial qualities. As a result of the failure of Descartes' theory of perception to give an adequate account of scientific observation, Locke took the position that solidity or impenetrability cannot ordinarily be perceived, but rather that it can be and is regularly detected by experiment. This Lockean shift from direct perceivability of spatial qualities to the experimental detection of "new" primary qualities marks an important step in the methodological development of early modern science. (shrink)
Contemporary medicine, it is argued here, employs reductive explanations, but at the same time resists wholesale reduction to ‘deeper’ biochemical and physical fields or theories. In its own reductive explanations, to be sure, medicine borrows causal concepts from other fields and so necessarily shares certain explanatory goals with those deeper fields. However, because medicine has additional, distinctive goals as well as a special subject matter and problems (it is a practical science), the field of medicine is ultimately irreducible.