Experiment and theory building
- 248 Downloads
I examine the role of inference from experiment in theory building. What are the options open to the scientific community when faced with an experimental result that appears to be in conflict with accepted theory? I distinguish, in Laudan’s (1977), Nickels’s (1981), and Franklin’s (1993) sense, between the context of pursuit and the context of justification of a scientific theory. Making this distinction allows for a productive middle position between epistemic realism and constructivism. The decision to pursue a new or a revised theory in response to the new evidence may not be fully rationally determined. Nonetheless, it is possible to distinguish the question of whether there is reason to pursue a theory from the question of whether that theory, once it has been pursued over time, solves a problem of interest to science. I argue that, in this context, there is a solid way to distinguish between the contexts of pursuit and of justification, on the basis of a theory’s evidential support and problem-solving ability.
KeywordsExperiment Theory building Realism Constructivism Pursuit Justification Inference Helmholtz Fluid mechanics Hacking Franklin Nickles Problem solving
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Collins H. (1994) A strong confirmation of the experimenter’s regress. Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 25(3): 493–503Google Scholar
- Darrigol O. (2005) Worlds of flow: A history of hydrodynamics from the Bernoullis to Prandtl. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
- Franklin A. (1993) The rise and fall of the fifth force: Discovery, pursuit, and justification in modern physics. American Institute of Physics, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Franklin, A. (2009). Experiment in physics. The stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Spring 2009 Edition), Zalta, E. N. (Ed.), URL = < http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2009/entries/physics-experiment/>.
- Fuhs, A. E., Shetz, J. A. (eds) (1999) Fundamentals of fluid mechanics. John Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Galison P. (1987) How experiments end. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Ghigo, F. (2009). Karl Jansky and the discovery of cosmic radio waves. National Radio Astronomy Observatory, http://www.nrao.edu/whatisra/hist_jansky.shtml.
- Hacking I. (1983) Representing and intervening: Introductory topics in the philosophy of natural science. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Kuhn T. (1987) What are scientific revolutions ? In: Kruger L., Daston L., Heidelberger M. (eds) The probablistic revolution, Volume I: Ideas in history. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pp 7–22Google Scholar
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (July 31, 2009). Breakdown In Planck’s Law: Bringing Objects Close Together Can Boost Radiation Heat Transfer. Science Daily: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090730154025.htm.
- Mayo D. (1996) Error and the growth of experimental knowledge. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
- Nickles, T. (eds) (1980) Scientific discovery: Case studies. D. Reidel, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
- Poincaré, H. (1890). Letter to Heinrich Hertz, 8 October 1890. ALS 4p. HS 02996, Archiv, Deutsches Museum.Google Scholar