The empirical basis of equilibrium: Mach, Vailati, and the lever

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 39 (1):42-53 (2008)
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Abstract

About a century ago, Ernst Mach argued that Archimedes’s deduction of the principle of the lever is invalid, since its premises contain the conclusion to be demonstrated. Subsequently, many scholars defended Archimedes, mostly on historical grounds, by raising objections to Mach’s reconstruction of Archimedes’s deduction. In the debate, the Italian philosopher and historian of science Giovanni Vailati stood out. Vailati responded to Mach with an analysis of Archimedes’s deduction which was later quoted and praised by Mach himself. In this paper, my objective is to show that the debate can be further advanced, as Mach indicated, by reframing it in terms of the empirical vs. the logical dimensions of mechanics. In this way, I will suggest, the debate about Archimedes’s deduction can be resolved in Mach’s favour.Keywords: Equilibrium; Experience; Thought experiment; Archimedes; Ernst Mach; Giovanni Vailati.

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Paolo Palmieri
University of Pittsburgh

Citations of this work

On the epistemological foundations of the law of the lever.Maarten Van Dyck - 2009 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 40 (3):315-318.
Response to Maarten Van Dyck’s commentary.Paolo Palmieri - 2009 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 40 (3):319-321.

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References found in this work

Are Thought Experiments Just What You Thought?John D. Norton - 1996 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 26 (3):333 - 366.
Archimedes.Daniel C. Lewis & E. J. Dijksterhuis - 1958 - American Journal of Philology 79 (2):221.
From proportion to balance: the background to symmetry in science.Giora Hon & Bernard R. Goldstein - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 36 (1):1-21.

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