Graduate studies at Western
|Abstract||Research at the nanoscale (10 7 to 10 9 meters) raises a number of intriguing philosophical issues. In this paper, I address one of them: the role of what can be called “visual evidence” in the construction and assessment of nanophenomena. First, a clarification is in order regarding the concepts of visual evidence and nanophenomena. It might be thought that the former expresses a redundancy whereas the latter is an oxymoron. After all, at least if we follow its Latin etymology, evidence emerges from what is obvious to the eye (and thus can be seen). In this sense, any evidence should then be visual. However, once the concept of evidence is formulated in the context of certain philosophical views, this immediate link to a visual experience need not be maintained although, ultimately, there will always be such a link. Having said that, breaking the link with the observable is precisely what happens in the case of some of the most influential models of evidence. Rather than keeping a close link to what can be visually perceived, these models stress the way in which evidence supports certain theories in particular, by making more likely that such theories be true. With regard to “nanophenomena”, it may be argued that the word “phenomena”, at least etymologically, stands for what appears, what can be seen. And if we restrict what can be seen to what can be seen without the use of instruments (such as various kinds of microscopes), then simply nothing at the nanoscale could be literally seen. Nanophenomena turn out to be an impossibility. However, once again, if phenomena are understood in the context of certain philosophical conceptions, they need not be tied directly only to what literally appears to our unaided eyes. Phenomena may stand for a certain cluster of events that are stable and regular enough to require some kind of explanation by our theories. Clearly, phenomena will involve something that can be seen: the items with respect to which our theories will be taken to be empirically adequate or not..|
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