Making perception possible

  • David Gooding
Part of the Science and Philosophy book series (SCPH, volume 5)


In chapter two I showed how aspects of new phenomena are made accessible to experience and how their given-ness in experience is also constructed through a process of representing, or construing. I argued that observers’ agency is essential both to eliciting experiential possibilities and to rendering them as observerable features of nature. Rendering includes the invention of frameworks of activity. These and the outcomes of activity understood in terms of them, were represented by images such as Biot’s ‘circular contour’ and Davy’s ‘chords’. Making images is just as creative an activity when practiced by scientists as when practiced by artists. Faraday’s mnemonics may lack the aesthetic appeal of Leonardo’s sketches, yet they did a very similar job: they conveyed, through an image, aspects of experience that had been (or was being) made sense of.1


Natural World Stimulus Theory Empirical Matter Electromagnetic Phenomenon Private Experience 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 2.
    Wittgenstein (1953), para. 272.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Quine (1974), p. 37.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Cartwright (1983), p. 6, notes this obsession with entities, but she is concerned with theoretical concepts at a far greater remove from observational practices than the rudimentary notions considered here.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Wittgenstein (1953), para. 257.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    See Bloor (1983), Collins (1985) and on the limitations of ostension as a model for experimental practice, Pickering, “Positivism, Holism, Constructivism”, unpublished Ms, 1987, and Pickering (1988, 1989).Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Quine (1960), p. 270 ff.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    For the distinction between peripheral and focal awareness see Polanyi (1964), pp. x, 55–57, 161–63.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    Hesse (1974), p. 61. Gruber (1985), p. 179 also notes that in the shadow-box situation truth may become little more than consensus.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    See, for example, the studies in Barnes and Shapin, eds., (1979).Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    Private communications; see also Pickering (1989), p. 290 ff.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    Kuhn (1962b), p. 142.Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    Ravetz (1971), pp. 75–76.Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    See Polanyi (1964), pp. 49–66 and Kuhn’s discussion of exemplars in his ‘Postscript’ to Kuhn (1962b), reprinted in Kuhn (1977), pp. 297 ff.Google Scholar
  14. 15.
    Wittgenstein (1953), paras. 256–274. Winch’s version of this argument supports a more idealistic position than Wittgenstein’s (Winch 1958).Google Scholar
  15. 16.
    The instability of experience is one aspect of the problem of replication, though it is not not as intractable a problem as laboratory ethnographers sometimes suggest. Consistency of experience depends on skill in producing, representing and recording it. Davy’s dilemma — cited as the forword to chapter 2, presupposed such skills.Google Scholar
  16. 17.
    Gombrich (1980) p. 212. Poincaré made a similar point about experiment in his (1952), p. 140.Google Scholar
  17. 18.
    Wittgenstein (1953), paras. 94e-95e, 265.Google Scholar
  18. 19.
    See, e.g., Martin (1932–36), vol. 1, p. 58–9, discussed below.Google Scholar
  19. 20.
    This follows from a very narrow definition of what counts as discovery, as does the irrelevance of the pre-history of experiment; see Brannigan (1981).Google Scholar
  20. 21.
    Winch (1958), p. 86.Google Scholar
  21. 22.
  22. 23.
    Gooding (1985c), pp. 167–70.Google Scholar
  23. 24.
    Tweney (1985).Google Scholar
  24. 25.
    Tweney, “The use of external memory in science”, unpublished Ms.Google Scholar
  25. 26.
    In an Address to the British Association Maxwell once asked ‘but who will lead me [from the molecular realm] into that still more hidden and dimmer region where Thought weds Fact, where the mental operations of the mathematician and the physical action of the molecules are seen in their true relation?’, Maxwell (1890), vol. 2, p. 216.Google Scholar
  26. 27.
    Construals are not the empirical ‘base’ of an hierarchical, theoretical structure. Here it is more useful to think of the temporal distance of the objectives of such activity as Galison does (in terms of problems that need to be solved in the short, medium and long-term) rather than the ‘level’ of abstraction or theoreticity of the models: Galison (1987).Google Scholar
  27. 28.
    For a variety of examples of processes of objectification or reification see: Fleck (1979), Ihde (1979), Latour and Woolgar (1979), Gooding (1982a) and Shapin and Schaffer (1985), especially their discussion (p. 17 & ff.) of Alpers (1983).Google Scholar
  28. 29.
    See Hacking (1983), part II. Agency in observation is also discussed in von Wright (1971), pp. 60–64.Google Scholar
  29. 30.
    Feyerabend (1975) and Hanson (1972).Google Scholar
  30. 31.
    See Putnam (1981), chapter 3 and Hesse (1974), pp. 56–59 for this problem.Google Scholar
  31. 32.
    For the assimilation of the world to representations of it see Rorty (1980), esp. chapters 4 and 6.Google Scholar
  32. 33.
    Putnam (1975), pp. 144–64.Google Scholar
  33. 34.
    Jardine (1978), pp. 119–20.Google Scholar
  34. 35.
    Putnam (1973), p. 203 ff.Google Scholar
  35. 36.
    This is because the transfer of tacit knowledge (Collins 1974, 1975) is a social process: Collins (1985).Google Scholar
  36. 37.
    Maxwell’s comments on the importance of Faraday’s lines of force are well known: see his preface to Maxwell (1873) and his article on Faraday in Maxwell (1890), vol. 2, pp. 359–60. Studies of the development of Faraday’s ideas tend to neglect Thomson’s important role (see Larmor, 1937); recent studies are: Heimann (1970), Nersessian (1984), Wise (1979).Google Scholar
  37. 38.
    For an account see Gooding (1981) and below, chapters 4 and 10.Google Scholar
  38. 39.
    For the context in which dissemination motivated demonstrations see Hays (1983) and Gooding (1985a, 1989a).Google Scholar
  39. 40.
    For finitism see Bloor (1983), p. 27.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Gooding
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BathEngland

Personalised recommendations