The Rise of Scientific Philosophy

AutorReichenbach, Hans, 1891-1953
PealkiriThe rise of scientific philosophy / Hans Reichenbach
IlmunudBerkeley ; Los Angeles : University of California Press, 1957, 1959
ViideReichenbach, Hans 1957. The rise of scientific philosophy. Berkeley; Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Sometimes explanation is achieved by assuming some fact that is not or cannot be observed. For instance, the barking of a dog might be explained by the assumption that a stranger is approaching the house; and the occurrence of marine fossils in mountains is explained by assuming that the ground was at some time at a lower level and covered the ovean. But the unobserved fact is explanatory because it shows the observed fact to be the manifestation of a general law: dogs bark when strangers approach, marine animals do not live on the land. General laws thus can be used for inferences uncovering new facts, and explanation becomes an instrument of supplementing the world of direct experience with inferred objects and occurrences. (Reisenbach 1957: 7)
This reminds me of abduction, but I must read up on the latter to be sure. Also, keep retroduction (John Deelys coinage) in mind!
Plato tells us that apart from physical things there exists a second kind of things, which he calls ideas. There exists the idea of a triangle, or of parallels, or of a circle, apart from the corresponding figures drawn on paper. The ideas are superior to physical objects: they exhibit the properties of these objects in a perfect way, and we thus learn more about physical objects by looking at their ideas than by looking at these objects themselves. What plato means is again illustrated by reference to geometrical figures: the straight lines we draw have a certain thickness and thus are not lines in the sense of the geometrician, which have no thickness; the corners of a triangle drawn in the sand are actually small areas and are thus not ideal points. The discrepancy between the meaning of geometrical concepts and their realizations through physical objects leads Plato to the belief that there must exist ideal objects, or ideal representatives of these meanings. Plato thus arrives at a world of a higher reality than our world of physical things; the latter are said to partake of the ideal things in such a way that they show the properties of the ideal things in an imperfect way.
But mathematical objects are not the only things that exist in an ideal form. According to Plato, there are all kinds of ideas, such as the idea of a cat, or of a human being, or of a house. In short, every class name (a class of a kind of objects), or universal, indicates the existence of the corresponding idea. Like mathematical ideas, the ideas of other objects are perfect as compared with their imperfect copies in the real world. Thus the ideal cat shows all the properties of "catiness" in a perfect form, and the ideal athlete is superior to every actual athlete in every respect; for instance, he exhibits the ideal bodily shape. Incidentally, our present use of the word "ideal" derives from Plato's theory. (Reisenbach 1957: 19)
A neat explanation of Plato's ideals. Could become useful in discussing Ekman's categories.
We should not take too seriously what Socrates says; what matters is how he says it and how he stimulates his disciples to logical argument. Plato's philosophy is the work of a philosopher turned poet. (Reisenbach 1957: 24)
This is exactly how I feel when reading some local authors with superb handle on the scientific jargon. It may almost reserve paraphrasing: teaduspoeesia is the work oa a semiotician turned poet.
Pythagoras' followers practiced a sort of religious cult, the mystical character of which is visible in certain taboos said to have been imposed upon them by the master. For instance, they were taught that it is dangerous to leave an impress of the body on one's bed and were required to straighten out their bedclothes when they got up in the morning. (Reisenbach 1957: 33)
This reminded me of the bedmaking routine reportedly rampant in the army. One could think of magical implications, but the original cause might as well have been hygiene and parasites (bedbugs).
There is some disturbance by the observation even in the macroscopic world. When a police car moves through the traffic of a boulevard, its occupants see all the surrounding cars move slowly within the required speed limits. If the police officed did not sometimes put on civilian clothes and drive an ordinary car, he would infer that all the cars all the time move at such a reasonable speed. In our intercourse with electrons we cannot don civilian clothes; when we watch them we always disturb their traffic. (Reisenbach 1957: 182)
A common problem in all research: observation vs participation; or in Colin Cherry's terms: using the object-channel vs the meta-channel. On a sitenote: "don" means "Put on (an item of clothing)".
Imagine what a May fly, which lives only one day, would observe of types of human beings: it would see babies, children, teen-agers, adults, and aged persons, but could not notice any growth or change in the individual persons. If among the May flies there turned up a Darwin, such an outstanding fly might very well infer that the coexisting stages of human beings which it observes represent a historical succession. As far as time ratios are concerned, the May fly is much better off than we are: compared with the time lenght of evolution, the span of a human life is much shorter than the one-day life of a May fly compared with the longest lifetime of a human being. No wonder that we cannot actually observe evolutionary change, for which even the six thousand years of recordded human history form a period of merely an infinitesimal lenght. So we shall always depend on an inference from systematic order to historical order, a cross-inference from the order of the simultaneous to the order of succession. (Reisenbach 1957: 198)
A neat allegory on understanding evolution.
To ask how matter was generated from nothing, or to ask for a first cause, in the sense of a cause of the first event, or of the universe as a whole, is not a meaningul question. Explanation in terms of causes means pointing out a previous event that is connected with the later event in terms of general laws. If there were a first event, it could not have a cause, and it would not be meaningful to ask for an explanation. But there need not have been a first event; we can imagine that every event was preceded by an earlier event, and that time has no beginning. The infinity of time, in both directions, offers no difficulties to the understanding. We know that the series of numbers has no end, that for every number there is a larger number. If we include the negative numbers, the number series has no beginning either; for every number there is a smaller number. Infinite series without a beginning and an end have been successfully treated in mathematics; there is nothing paradoxical in them. To object that there must have been a first event, a beginning of time, is the attitude of an untrained mind. Logic does not tell us anything about the structure of time. Logic offers the means of dealing with infinite series without a beginning as well as with series that have a beginning. If scientific evidence is a favor of an infinite time, coming from infinity and going to infinity, logic has no objection. (Reisenbach 1957: 207-208)
Here, I feel, he is arguing against religious people who acclaim the "first event" to God.
He who searches for truth must not appease his urge by giving himself up to the narcotic of belief. Science is its own master and recognizes no authority beyond its confines. (Reisenbach 1957: 214)


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