The Philosophy Of Scientific Experimentation

The Philosophy Of Scientific Experimentation

Edited by Hans Radder
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    The Philosophy Of Scientific Experimentation
    Book Description:

    Since the late 1980s, the neglect of experiment by philosophers and historians of science has been replaced by a keen interest in the subject. In this volume, a number of prominent philosophers of experiment directly address basic theoretical questions, develop existing philosophical accounts, and offer novel perspectives on the subject, rather than rely exclusively on historical cases of experimental practice.

    Each essay examines one or more of six interconnected themes that run throughout the collection: the philosophical implications of actively and intentionally interfering with the material world while conducting experiments; issues of interpretation regarding causality; the link between science and technology; the role of theory in experimentation involving material and causal intervention; the impact of modeling and computer simulation on experimentation; and the philosophical implications of the design, operation, and use of scientific instruments.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7239-6
    Subjects: Philosophy, General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  5. 1 Toward a More Developed Philosophy of Scientific Experimentation
    (pp. 1-18)
    Hans Radder

    The development of the philosophy of scientific experimentation over the past twenty years has two main features. After a rapid start in the 1980s (see Hacking 1989a), it seems to have lost much of this momentum during the next decade. At the very least, the expectation that the study of experiment would become a major issue within received traditions in philosophy of science has not been fulfilled. To verify this, it is enough to glance through the recent volumes of well-known journals, such asPhilosophy of Science, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Erkenntnis, and the like. Alternatively, one...

  6. 2 The Materiality of Instruments in a Metaphysics for Experiments
    (pp. 19-38)
    Rom Harré

    There is no doubt that the philosophical study of experiments and the apparatus and instruments with which they are conducted has been neglected. In recent years, the topic has been broached, but there is still much to say. The invisibility of the experiment in the period during which logicism dominated the philosophy of science will serve as a starting point for these investigations. The recent inroads that have been made into the philosophy of science from the sociology of science have brought experimental activity to the fore and have led to some attention being paid to laboratory equipment. However, there...

    (pp. 39-67)
    Davis Baird

    I present here in brief a materialist theory of knowledge, which I call “thing knowledge.” This is an epistemology where the things we make bear our knowledge of the world, on a par with the words we speak. I oppose an epistemological picture where the things we make are simply instrumental to the articulation and justification of knowledge expressed in words or equations. Our things do this, but they do more. They bear knowledge themselves, and, frequently enough, the words we speak serve instrumentally in the articulation and justification of knowledge borne by things.

    This is important for a variety...

  8. 4 Physics, Experiments, and the Concept of Nature
    (pp. 68-86)
    Peter Kroes

    My main concern will be the question of what kind of conception of nature underlies modern experimental physics. My strategy will be to compare the natural objects and phenomena studied in physical experiments with the artificial infrastructure (technological artifacts, artificial conditions) of those experiments in order to uncover differences between the domain of the natural and of the artificial. We will start with a few preliminary remarks about the distinction between the natural and the artificial. Then, the traditional view on the dividing line between the natural and the artificial in the context of physical experiments will be discussed. Thereafter,...

  9. 5 Experimentation, Causal Inference, and Instrumental Realism
    (pp. 87-118)
    Jim Woodward

    Although there is a large philosophical literature on experimentation and an even larger literature on causation and causal inference, there has been remarkably little contact between the two. This is so despite the fact that it is a common view in many areas of science that experiments are a particularly reliable way of finding out about causal relationships and of distinguishing causal from merely correlational relationships. Researchers in the biomedical, behavioral, and social sciences in particular often tend to think of experimentation as the “gold standard” for establishing causal relationships, and they tend to draw invidious contrasts between causal claims...

  10. 6 Technology as Basis and Object of Experimental Practices
    (pp. 119-137)
    Rainer Lange

    It is widely acknowledged that the relation between science and technology must be an important topic of any philosophical account of experimental science (Radder, this volume, chaps. 1, 8). Experimental scientists, especially in the natural sciences, construct and use instruments in order to produce, control, and register the phenomena that their publications refer to. With this action and production aspect of experimentation in mind, it is only natural to think of what experimental scientists do in terms of a special kind of learned craftsmanship, thus emphasizing the parallels between science and technology. In the extreme, one might view experimentation as...

  11. 7 Theory-Ladenness and Scientific Instruments in Experimentation
    (pp. 138-151)
    Michael Heidelberger

    Since the late 1950s one of the most important and influential views of post-positivist philosophy of science has been the theory-ladenness of observation. It comes in at least two forms: either as a psychological law pertaining to human perception (whether scientific or not) or as conceptual insight concerning the nature and functioning of scientific language and its meaning. According to its psychological form, perceptions of scientists, as perceptions of humans generally, are guided by prior beliefs and expectations, and perception has a peculiar holist character. In its conceptual form it maintains that scientists’ observations rest on the theories they accept...

  12. 8 Technology and Theory in Experimental Science
    (pp. 152-173)
    Hans Radder

    I begin with a point of method. If we want to put forward a specific claim about an issue in the philosophy of scientific experimentation (for instance: “theory-free experiments are impossible”), we need to make explicit, at least in outline, what we take to be an experiment. One suggestion, then, might be that an experiment is what scientists call an experiment. Consistently following this suggestion, however, would imply that we simply take for granted the intuitions and conceptualizations of the scientists. Given that scientists and philosophers pursue different goals, this is-generally speaking-not recommendable. For example, many scientists do not bother...

  13. 9 The Idols of Experiment: TRANSCENDING THE “ETC. LIST”
    (pp. 174-197)
    Giora Hon

    In the concluding session of the workshop “Experiments: Their Meaning and Variety” (Bielefeld, Germany, March 1996; see Heidelberger and Steinle 1998), it became apparent that a divide separates the historians of science from the philosophers of science as to scientific experimentation. It transpired that the philosophy of experiment is lagging behind the extensive historical studies of experimentation and has not yet incorporated the many facets (technological, cultural, sociological, and anthropological) that historians have addressed. It was clear that a stronger case for the philosophy of experiment should have been made. To be sure, there have been attempts at such philosophy,...

  14. 10 Models, Simulation, and “Computer Experiments”
    (pp. 198-215)
    Evelyn Fox Keller

    As Nelson Goodman famously observed, “Few terms are used in popular and scientific discourse more promiscuously than ‘model’” (Goodman 1968, 171). Writing more than thirty years later, much the same might be said of the term “simulation.” Yet this was not always the case. Both words have ancient histories, but until very recently, the meaning of “simulation,” at least, was manifestly stable: it invariably implied deceit. Usages offered by the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) prior to 1947 include “false pretence”; “A Deceiving by Actions, Gestures, or Behaviour” (1692); “a Pretence of what is not” (1711). Evidence provided by the OED,...

    (pp. 216-235)
    Mary S. Morgan

    Experiments may be portrayed as involving manipulations of elements in the material world under conditions of control. A simple material experimental manipulation or intervention, such as adding a certain amount of a substance to an amount of liquid in a test tube and directly observing (and perhaps measuring) the results, provides a stereotype example of the idea of experiment gleaned from high-school chemistry experience. Such an experiment incorporates areas of control in both the circumstances and in the procedures of the manipulation.

    Recent science studies have emphasized both how very different from this stereotype most experiments really are and how...

  16. 12 Designing Instruments and the Design of Nature
    (pp. 236-254)
    Daniel Rothbart

    Until recently, scant attention was paid by twentieth-century philosophers of science to laboratory instruments, even to devices that produced stunning results. According to empiricist-oriented philosophers of the modern era, the validity of findings rests on the same kind of quasi-transparent standard that determined a genuine experience with the naked senses. We now know better from our understanding of current research practices. The old aspirations for transparent methods have been discredited by philosophers on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. In a resurgence of interest in experimental technologies, we read how instrumental techniques provide a source of philosophical insight into experimentation....

    (pp. 255-284)
    David Gooding

    It is a commonplace that humans use technologies to extend their ability to see, remember, calculate, and reason. Science has always depended on such tools. I am interested in the interaction of ordinary human modes of perception with the technologies that enhance the modes of perception of empirical science. This dynamic has three features important to a developed philosophy of experimentation. First, there is a shift from ordinary human perception, construed in terms of contemporary commonsense notions, to the real (or super-real) objects of scientific investigation such as the primary qualities of Galileo and Newton. This first shift is often...

    (pp. 285-302)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 303-311)