Robert Boyle and the heuristic value of mechanism


Abstract
This paper argues that, contrary to the claims of Alan Chalmers, Boyle understood his experimental work to be intimately related to his mechanical philosophy. Its central claim is that the mechanical philosophy has a heuristic structure that motivates and gives direction to Boyle's experimental programme. Boyle was able to delimit the scope of possible explanations of any phenomenon by positing both that all qualities are ultimately reducible to a select group of mechanical qualities and that all explanations of natural phenomena are to be in terms of the operations of machines and are to appeal only to qualities that are already familiar. This is illustrated by his investigations into the Torricellian experiment. Boyle's explanation of the elevation of the mercurial cylinder by appeal to the spring of the air was an intermediate mechanical explanation. Boyle was convinced that the spring of the air was ultimately reducible to the mechanical qualities. This in turn had implications for his research into the cause of respiration. In a move that was both parsimonious and consistent with the broad requirements of the mechanical philosophy, Boyle was able to solve the problem of the cause of the inflow of air into the lungs by appeal to his research in pneumatics. This application of a mechanical explanation in pneumatics to physiology is just what one would expect if the mechanical philosophy was as universal as Boyle claimed it to be. Therefore, far from Boyle's experiments having a life of their own, they were clearly directed by and understood in terms of the mechanical philosophy.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 52,704
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Un-Locke-Ing Boyle: Boyle on Primary and Secondary Qualities.Laura Keating - 1993 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 10 (4):305 - 323.
Boyle, Classification and the Workmanship of the Understanding Thesis.Jan-Erik Jones - 2005 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 43 (2):171-183.
Robert Boyle and the Masculine Methods of Science.Rose-Mary Sargent - 2004 - Philosophy of Science 71 (5):857-867.
Robert Boyle's Epistemology: The Interaction Between Scientific and Religious Knowledge.J. J. MacIntosh - 1992 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 6 (2):91 – 121.
Lockean Fluids.Michael Jacovides - 2008 - In Paul Hoffman, David Owen & Gideon Yaffe (eds.), Contemporary Perspectives on Early Modern Philosophy: Essays in Honor of Vere Chappell. Broadview Press.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2009-01-28

Total views
9 ( #858,989 of 2,340,172 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #515,720 of 2,340,172 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

My notes