Coordination and Measurement: What We Get Wrong About What Reichenbach Got Right
In his Scientific Representation (2008), van Fraassen argues that measuring is a form of representation. In fact, every measurement pinpoints its target in accordance with specific operational rules within an already-constructed theoretical space, in which certain conceptual interconnections can be represented. Reichenbach’s 1920 account of coordination is particularly interesting in this connection. Even though recent reassessments of this account do not do full justice to some important elements lying behind it, they do have the merit of focusing on a different aspect of his early work that traditional interpretations of relativized a priori principles have unfortunately neglected in favour of a more “structural” role for coordination. In Reichenbach’s early work, however, the idea of coordination was employed not only to indicate theory-specific fundamental principles such as the ones suggested in the literature on conventional principles in science, but also to refer to more “basic” assumptions. In Reichenbach, these principles are preconditions both of the individuation of physical magnitudes and of their measurement, and, as such, they are necessary to approach the world in the first instance. This paper aims to reassess Reichenbach’s approach to coordination and to the representation of physical quantities in light of recent literature on measurement and scientific representation.
KeywordsMeasurement Coordination Constitutive principles in science Reichenbach van Fraassen
Besides the EPSA 2015 meeting in Düsseldorf, early versions of this paper were also presented at the BSPS conference in Manchester (2015) and at the GWP conference in Düsseldorf (2016). On all those occasions, I have greatly benefitted from the remarks made by the audience. I also wish to thank Giovanni Valente and Erik Curiel as well as two anonymous referees for valuable comments on a previous draft of this paper.
- Friedman, M. 2001. Dynamics of reason. Stanford: CSLI Publications.Google Scholar
- Krantz, H., R. Luce, P. Suppes, and A. Tversky. 1971–1990. Foundations of measurement, vol. I–III. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
- ———. 2013. Genidentity and topology of time: Kurt Lewin and Hans Reichenbach. Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science 273: 97–122.Google Scholar
- Parrini, P. 2002. L’empirismo logico. Aspetti storici e prospettive teoriche. Roma: Carocci.Google Scholar
- Reichenbach, H. 1916/2008. The concept of probability in the mathematical representation of reality, ed. F. Eberhardt and C. Glymour. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- ———. 1920/1965. The theory of relativity and a priori knowledge. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Stump, D. 2015. Conceptual change and the philosophy of science. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- van Fraassen, B.C. (2007). Relativity reign O’er Me. Symposium on Thomas Ryckman’s The Reign of Relativity. Metascience 16(3): 407–419.Google Scholar