, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 321-330
Date: 09 Mar 2012

Sympathy for the devil: Reconsidering Ernst Mach’s empiricism

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Aristotle claimed that the sign of an educated mind was the ability to entertain a thought without accepting it. Yet, as we all know, sometimes we encounter a position so foreign to our own ways of thinking that even entertaining it is impossible. John Blackmore, over his long career of writing about the life, work and influence of Ernst Mach, has never been able to see anything of value in Mach’s philosophical writings, and what is more, his historical coverage of Mach’s career is often punctuated with tirades against what Blackmore calls Mach’s “phenomenalism,” the belief in the reality of human sense experience and literally nothing else. Blackmore reiterates that view in Ernst Mach’s Philosophy Pro and Con, his first book devoted exclusively to Mach’s philosophy, along with a recent offering about Ernst Mach’s Prague. In previous work, Blackmore has identified as an historian and claimed to avoid taking sides in philosophical disputes, but this has never been entirely true. It seem ...