Incommensurability between successive scientific theories—the impossibility of empirical evidence dictating the choice between them—was Thomas Kuhn's most controversial proposal. Toward defending it, he directed much effort over his last 30 years into formulating precise conditions under which two theories would be undeniably incommensurable with one another. His first step, in the late 1960s, was to argue that incommensurability must result when two theories involve incompatible taxonomies. The problem he then struggled with, never obtaining a solution that he found entirely satisfactory, (...) was how to extend this initial line of thought to sciences like physics in which taxonomy is not so transparently dominant as it is, for example, in chemistry. This paper reconsiders incommensurability in the light of examples in which evidence historically did and did not carry over continuously from old laws and theories to new ones. The transition from ray to wave optics early in the nineteenth century, we argue, is especially informative in this regard. The evidence for the theory of polarization within ray optics did not carry over to wave optics, so that this transition can be regarded as a prototypical case of discontinuity of evidence, and hence of incommensurability in the way Kuhn wanted. Yet the evidence for classic geometric optics did carry over to wave optics, notwithstanding the fundamental conceptual readjustment that Fresnel's wave theory required. (shrink)
When Christiaan Huygens prepared the 1686/1687 expedition to the Cape of Good Hope on which his pendulum clocks were to be tested for their usefulness in measuring longitude at sea, he also gave instructions to Thomas Helder to perform experiments with the seconds-pendulum. This was prompted by Jean Richer's 1672 finding that a seconds-pendulum is 1 1/4 lines shorter in Cayenne than in Paris. Unfortunately, Helder died on the voy¬age, and no data from the seconds-pendulum ever reached Huygens. He nevertheless (...) did receive data from his clocks on the return-voyage from the Cape of Good Hope to Texel. When he first calculated the ship's course according to these data, it appeared to have gone straight through Ireland. He then tried introducing a correction to the data, based on an idea he had previously entertained as a possible explanation of Richer's finding: he corrected the observed time to com¬pen¬sate for a reduction in the effect of gravity from the Poles to the Equator resulting purely from the Earth's rotation. His newly calculated course convinced him that this rotational effect is the sole source of any variations in gravity with latitude. This paper examines Huygens's correc¬tions to the data and his reasoning from the new course to the conclusion that nothing else causes a variation in gravity. In the process, we show that Huygens had cogent empirical reasons to reject Isaac Newton's theory of universal gravity, which predicted a some¬what larger variation in gravity. (shrink)
Methuselah, it is said, lived 969 years. His state of health at death is not revealed. It can only be surmised that he was surely not robust and, no doubt, was subject to all of the infirmities of old age and the tragic indignities associated with senility.Jonathan Swift captured well the “curse” of immortality when, in Gulliver's Travels, he created a group of individuals, the Struldbrugs, who, when encountered, dulled what had heretofore been an appetite for perpetual life. The Struldbrugs (...) were allowed to be born totally exempt from the “calamity of human Nature,” in that their minds were free “and disingaged, without the Weight and De pression of Spirits caused by the continued Apprehension of Death.” They were thus condemned “to a perpetual continuance in the World.” In his travels, Gulliver found some Struldbrugs well over 1,000 years old. (shrink)
This essay opens up the question of what difference the history of science makes. What is the value of the history of science, beyond its role as an academic pursuit that we historians of science know and love? It introduces the set of essays that follow as explorations that grew out of a seminar on this topic and that arise from the authors' particular concerns both that historians of science do not work hard enough to make their work of value (...) and that others do not know of the potential. That seminar, at the Marine Biological Laboratory, was funded for nineteen years by the Dibner Institute and last year by Brent Dibner. It will continue and carry such discussions forward in new ways as the Arizona State University–Marine Biological Laboratory History of Biology Seminar Series. This set of focused essays seeks to invite lively discussion and response. (shrink)
Not everyone finds a in suffering. Indeed, even those who do subscribe to this interpretation recognize the responsibility of each individual to show not only sensitivity and compassion but render assistance to those in distress. Pharmacologic hypnosis, morphine intoxication, and terminal sedation provide their own type of medical to the terminally ill patient suffering unremitting pain. More and more states are enacting legislation that recognizes this need of the dying to receive relief through regulated administration of controlled substances. Wider legislative (...) recognition of this need would go far toward allowing physicians, in the exercise of their reasonable medical judgment, to administer a range of narcotics and barbiturates to the terminally ill without fear of legal sanctions. Sadly, social attitudes and governmental concerns about the spread of drug addiction provide an undeniable policy nexus that impedes unduly a rational approach or exception for the treatment of pain experienced by the dying. (shrink)
This comment on Michael Bratman's Planning and the Stability of Intention focuses on sources of the rational stability of intentions which are not related to the presence of reflectively overrideable non-deliberative habits of (non)reconsideration. It is true that intentions have a rational resistance to reconsideration, but this stability can be understood as a by-product of the scheduling of cognitive tasks. This scheduling effect is intrinsic to all actual systems, that is, systems whose reasoning is not instantaneous or otherwise costless. Additionally, (...) rules governing practical reasoning, including rules governing reasoning with intentions, will not uniformly be subject to overrides resulting from reflective operations. Hence there is no basis for distinguishing human reasoners from artificial reasoners by reference to an alleged human capacity to reflectivity evaluate its own reasoning operations. (shrink)
A particular research program on mental imagery is defended against certain sweeping methodological criticisms that have been advanced against it. The central claim is that the approach taken in the program is an appropriate response to the problem of doing empirical research in a theoretical vacuum, and that when it is viewed in this perspective, the criticisms are not merely unfounded, they are inappropriate. The argument for this claim is developed by first describing the program and then analyzing the methodological (...) rationale behind it. (shrink)
Anarchism is a theory of the good society, in which justice and social order are maintained without the State (or government). Many anarchists in the libertarian movement (including myself) were heavily influenced by the epistemological and moral theories of Ayn Rand. According to these anarchists, Rand's principles, if consistently applied, lead necessarily to a repudiation of government on moral grounds.
Sir Isaac Newton was one of the greatest scientists of all time, a thinker of extraordinary range and creativity who has left enduring legacies in mathematics and the natural sciences. In this volume a team of distinguished contributors examine all the main aspects of Newton's thought, including not only his approach to space, time, mechanics, and universal gravity in his Principia, his research in optics, and his contributions to mathematics, but also his more clandestine investigations into alchemy, theology, and prophecy, (...) which have sometimes been overshadowed by his mathematical and scientific interests. (shrink)
Sir Isaac Newton was one of the greatest scientists of all time, a thinker of extraordinary range and creativity who has left enduring legacies in mathematics and physics. While most famous for his Principia, his work on light and colour, and his discovery of the calculus, Newton devoted much more time to research in chemistry and alchemy, and to studying prophecy, church history and ancient chronology. This new edition of The Cambridge Companion to Newton provides authoritative introductions to these further (...) dimensions of his endeavours as well as to many aspects of his physics. It includes a revised bibliography, a new introduction and six new chapters: three updating previous chapters on Newton's mathematics, his chemistry and alchemy and the reception of his religious views; and three entirely new, on his religion, his ancient chronology and the treatment of continuous and discontinuous forces in his second law of motion. (shrink)
As an alternative to universalism and particularism, Intermedialities: Philosophy, Arts, Politics proposes "intermedialities" as a new model of social relations and intercultural dialogue. The concept of "intermedialities" stresses the necessity of situating debates concerning social relations in the divergent contexts of new media and avant-garde artistic practices as well as feminist, political, and philosophical analyses.