Mach and Hertz's mechanics

The place of Heinrich Hertz’s The principles of mechanics in the history of the philosophy of science is disputed. Here I critically assess positivist interpretations, concluding that they are inadequate.There is a group of commentators who seek to align Hertz with positivism, or with specific positivists such as Ernst Mach, who were enormously influential at the time. Max Jammer is prominent among this group, the most recent member of which is Joseph Kockelmans. I begin by discussing what Hertz and Mach had to say about one another, and I specify certain respects in which their views are indeed similar. I then go on to detail their differences, looking at Hertz’s attitude to the atomic theory, to the mechanical world-view, to simplicity, to unobservables and metaphysics, and his objections to Newtonian forces. I conclude that the positivist interpretation of Hertz’s mechanics significantly overplays its similarities to Mach’s views.Keywords: Ernst Mach; Heinrich Hertz; Mechanics; Positivism; Atomism; Force; Metaphysics
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DOI 10.1016/j.shpsa.2007.11.007
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References found in this work BETA
S. G. Brush (1968). Mach and Atomism. Synthese 18 (2-3):192 - 215.
John Preston (2008). Hertz, Wittgenstein and Philosophical Method. Philosophical Investigations 31 (1):48–67.

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