The Ambiguous Role of Experience in Cartesian Science

Descartes' methodology is ambiguous about the role of empirical evidence in science. This ambiguity does not derive from Rationalist qualms about the specifically empirical character of such evidence; for the apparant clash of experience and reason is explained by the need to re-interpret perceptions in terms of new theories, and by the frequently "contaminated" status of so-called experimental evidence. The ambiguity results, rather, from: (a) Descartes' predilection for "ordinary experience" rather than experiments as a source of warrant, and (b) the looseness of fit between hypotheses and confirming evidence. The mathematical ideal of science is a camouflage for a naive, and conceptually impoverished, empiricism.
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DOI 10.2307/192358
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