In the October 1937 number of Philosophy of Science Lindsay has made certain criticisms of the adequacy of the “operational method” of analyzing and giving meaning to the concepts of physics, documenting his criticisms chiefly from my own writings. In these criticisms he has made statements as to the method which I would by no means accept. This is not characteristic of his paper only, for I have seldom indeed seen a printed discussion of the method which I would accept (...) as being an adequate or sometimes even fair representation of what I understand by it. It will perhaps pay therefore if I attempt to state what I conceive it to be all about, particularly since I have never attempted such a comprehensive statement and since my own ideas on the subject have been developing since I first wrote in the Logic of Modern Physics. For one reason I have hesitated to do this, for fear of seeming to subscribe to the not uncommon idea that we are dealing with some elaborate and profound new theory of the nature of knowledge or of meaning. I believe that I myself have never talked of “operationalism” or “operationism”, but I have a distaste for these grandiloquent words which imply something more philosophic and esoteric than the simple thing that I see. What we are here concerned with is an observation and description of methods which at least some physicists had already, perhaps unconsciously, adopted and found successful—the practise of the methods already existed. What I have attempted is to analyze these successful methods, not to set up a philosophical system and a theory of the properties that any method must have if it hopes to be successful. Since I was concerned with a technique already extant, my principal method of getting others to see what the technique involved has been to exhibit examples of the technique in action, rather than to attempt any exhaustive characterization of the technique itself. (shrink)
History of Science is a many-sided subject, permitting approach from the point of view of various human interests, and presenting a wide variety of problems, many of them paradoxical and perhaps not capable of satisfactory solution. In the following it will probably seem to the reader a number of times that I am talking at cross purposes. Anything that I can say is of necessity limited by my background as a physicist.
Introduction, by G. Holton.--Three eighteenth-century social philosophers: scientific influences on their thought, by H. Guerlac.--Science and the human comedy: Voltaire, by H. Brown.--The seventeenth-century legacy: our mirror of being, by G. de Santillana.--Contemporary science and the contemporary world view, by P. Frank.--The growth of science and the structure of culture, by R. Oppenheimer.--The Freudian conception of man and the continuity of nature, by J. S. Bruner.--Quo vadis, by P. W. Bridgman.--Prospects for a new synthesis: science and the humanities as complementary (...) activities, by C. Morris.--A humanist looks at science, by H. M. Jones. (shrink)
One thing which has struck me most as I have read the articles of the Encyclopedia of Unified Science is the complexity that can be discerned in many of the operations which for the purpose of the article are treated as elementary. It is apparent that Unity of Science, like every other discipline, has its own stock of “atoms of discourse”, suited to its own purposes. Experience in physics would prepare one to expect that for certain purposes it may be (...) profitable to attempt to analyze these atoms further. The atom of discourse, or presupposition commonly made by most adherents of the Unity of Science movement, with which I shall be chiefly concerned, is with regard to the nature of “science“. My present concern with this matter has arisen from my extreme difficulty in communicating my meaning to other people. The difficulty has been a genuine puzzle to me, until quite recently a discussion with one of my colleagues disclosed a difference of attitude on fundamental matters so revelatory that I am encouraged to return again to the attack. (shrink)