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Scientific Inference and the Earth’s Interior: Dorothy Wrinch and Harold Jeffreys at Cambridge

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Part of the Vienna Circle Institute Yearbook book series (VCIY,volume 20)

Abstract

That philosophical issues can, at times, have a profound influence on the development of a science, is by now a familiar idea to historically-minded philosophers of science. Studies of such influences have been limited, however, to a few sciences, with by far the most work being done on physics. I am quite confident, for example, that only a handful of philosophers are at all aware of a connection between the development of the field of seismology in the early decades of the twentieth century and the school of philosophy centered around Bertrand Russell and G. E. Moore at Cambridge. The main aim of this paper is to bring this connection to light through an examination of the work of Dorothy Wrinch and Harold Jeffreys, each of whom were students of this tradition of philosophy, and who went on to do important work in several different fields of science.

Keywords

  • Seismic Wave
  • Physical Object
  • Irrational Number
  • Deep Interior
  • Inductive Generalization

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Daniel Nicholson and Richard Gawne gave a talk on Woodger at the Vienna conference. An interesting question which I am not at present able to answer is to what extent the philosophical views of Woodger and Wrinch were influenced by each other.

  2. 2.

    For the specific references for all of the papers, see the Bibliography in Jeffreys (1971).

  3. 3.

    In addition to the objection I describe here, they reject Pearson ’s frequentist interpretation of probability for a logicist one, but debates between frequentists and logicists have been covered in detail elsewhere (e.g, Galavotti 2005, Howie 2002), so I will not examine this here.

  4. 4.

    It is given in Wrinch and Jeffreys (1921), pp . 383–386.

  5. 5.

    The procedure is described in detail in Jeffreys (1931), p. 46.

  6. 6.

    But see Braithwaite (1931) for an insightful, critical examination of Jeffreys’s method.

  7. 7.

    This is a reference to the American astronomer Asaph Hall, who made this suggestion (see Jeffreys 1931, p. 186).

  8. 8.

    See Miyake (2013) for a more detailed exposition of this idea.

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Miyake, T. (2017). Scientific Inference and the Earth’s Interior: Dorothy Wrinch and Harold Jeffreys at Cambridge. In: Stadler, F. (eds) Integrated History and Philosophy of Science. Vienna Circle Institute Yearbook, vol 20. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-53258-5_7

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