Experiment and the Making of Meaning

Experiment and the Making of Meaning : Human Agency in Scientific Observation and Experiment

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. . . the topic of 'meaning' is the one topic discussed in philosophy in which there is literally nothing but 'theory' - literally nothing that can be labelled or even ridiculed as the 'common sense view'. Putnam, 'The Meaning of Meaning' This book explores some truths behind the truism that experimentation is a hallmark of scientific activity. Scientists' descriptions of nature result from two sorts of encounter: they interact with each other and with nature. Philosophy of science has, by and large, failed to give an account of either sort of interaction. Philosophers typically imagine that scientists observe, theorize and experiment in order to produce general knowledge of natural laws, knowledge which can be applied to generate new theories and technologies. This view bifurcates the scientist's world into an empirical world of pre-articulate experience and know- how and another world of talk, thought and argument. Most received philosophies of science focus so exclusively on the literary world of representations that they cannot begin to address the philosophical problems arising from the interaction of these worlds: empirical access as a source of knowledge, meaning and reference, and of course, realism. This has placed the epistemological burden entirely on the predictive role of experiment because, it is argued, testing predictions is all that could show that scientists' theorizing is constrained by nature. Here a purely literary approach contributes to its own demise. The epistemological significance of experiment turns out to be a theoretical matter: cruciality depends on argument, not experiment.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 311 pages
  • 160.02 x 240.03 x 19.05mm | 594.2g
  • Dordrecht, Netherlands
  • English
  • Softcover reprint of the original 1st ed. 1990
  • XVIII, 311 p.
  • 0792332539
  • 9780792332534

Table of contents

1: Agency in Observation and Experiment.- 1: The Procedural Turn.- 1.1 Agency in observation and experiment.- 1.2 Discovery, reconstruction and justification.- 1.3 The procedural turn.- 1.4 Representing agency.- 1.5 Epistemological individualism.- 1.6 The making of meaning.- 2: Action and Interpretation.- 2.1 Making sense of new experience.- 2.2 The significance of observational anomaly.- 2.3 Making phenomena visible: Biot and Davy.- 2.4 Constructing self-evidence: Biot, Davy, Ampere.- 2.5 Observation and controversy.- 2.6 Davy's electromagnetic practice.- 2.7 How experiments make hypotheses meaningful.- 2.8 Action and interpretation.- 2.9 Spatio-temporal order: construals and frameworks.- 2.10 Disseminating order.- 3: Making Perception Possible.- 3.1 Intentionality and observation.- 3.2 Privacy, intention and meaning.- 3.3 The diarist's dilemma.- 3.4 A social model of observation.- 3.5 The language of observation.- 3.6 Modelling phenomena.- 3.7 Realism about language.- 3.8 Are there introducing events?.- 4: Making Curves.- 4.1 Introduction.- 4.2 Contexts of construction.- 4.3 Magnetic curves.- 4.4 Curves as a procedural framework.- 4.5 Experimenter's space, action and a field concept.- 5: Making Circular Motion.- 5.1 Construals: the construction of new phenomena.- 5.2 Making circles.- 5.3 Articulating possibilities.- 5.4 Making circular motion: the rotation motor.- 5.5 Patterns of discovery.- 6: Representing Experimentation.- 6.1 Agency, propositions and the world.- 6.2 Representing procedures.- 6.3 Putting the phenomena in context: interdependence.- 6.4 Mapping Faraday's manipulations.- 6.5 Eliciting a natural phenomenon.- 6.6 Discovery paths.- 6.7 Choosing and deciding.- 6.8 Observability and skill.- 6.9 Packaging skill.- 2: Making Natural Phenomena.- 7: A Realistic Role for Experiment.- 7.1 Convergence, skill, and correspondence.- 7.2 Packaging phenomena: experiment as argument.- 7.3 Correspondence.- 7.4 The metaphor of approximation.- 7.5 The myth of approximation.- 7.6 Realism without correspondence.- 8: The Experimenter's Redress.- 8.1 Corrigibility in theory and in practice.- 8.2 Morpurgo's search for quarks.- 8.3 Why do thought-experiments work?.- 8.4 The experimenter's regress.- 8.5 The experimenter's redress.- 8.6 Theory, truth and technology.- 9: Empiricism in Practice.- 9.1 Changing meanings: the implications of induction.- 9.2 Discovering a first principle.- 9.3 How experiment articulates analogy.- 9.4 Remaking meaning.- 9.5 Changing the meaning of experimental practice.- 9.6 Questioning quantitative practice.- 9.7 Making a crucial experiment.- 9.8 Epistemology in practice.- 10: Experiment and Meaning.- 10.1 Which comes first, theory or experiment?.- 10.2 Changing meanings: the nature of force.- 10.3 Extending the reach of magnetic curves.- 10.4 Locally convergent practice.- 10.5 Making divergent practices converge.- 10.6 Changing the sensory core of experience.- 10.7 Refining experimental practice.- 10.8 Refining theoretical practice.- 10.9 Experiment and meaning.- Notes.- Name Index.
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Review Text

` The main argument of this important book is designed to put human agency at the centre of any account one could give of the way scientific knowledge is produced. '
Rom Harré in European Journal of Physics, 13 (1992)
` We are in danger of misunderstanding and unnecessarily devaluing the recent achievements of our culture. David Gooding's work has pried open the black box and found inside the basis for not only a more complete picture of science, but for a more balanced image of its achievement and a saner assessment of the authority we should acknowledge it to possess. '
Jim Tiles in British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 45 (1994)
` ..I highly recommend it to anyone who takes seriously Imre Lakatos's paraphrase of Kant that "philosophy of science without history of science is empty, history of science without philosophy is blind." '
Allan Franklin in ISIS, 83:1 (1992)
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Review quote

`The main argument of this important book is designed to put human agency at the centre of any account one could give of the way scientific knowledge is produced. '
Rom Harre in European Journal of Physics, 13 (1992)

`We are in danger of misunderstanding and unnecessarily devaluing the recent achievements of our culture. David Gooding's work has pried open the black box and found inside the basis for not only a more complete picture of science, but for a more balanced image of its achievement and a saner assessment of the authority we should acknowledge it to possess. '
Jim Tiles in British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 45 (1994)

` ..I highly recommend it to anyone who takes seriously Imre Lakatos's paraphrase of Kant that "philosophy of science without history of science is empty, history of science without philosophy is blind." '
Allan Franklin in ISIS, 83:1 (1992)
show more