•  134
    Has Laudan killed the demarcation problem?
    Dissertation, University of Melbourne. 2009.
    The ‘Demarcation Problem’ is to mark the boundary between things that are scientific and things that are not. Philosophers have worked on this problem for a long time, and yet there is still no consensus solution. Should we continue to hope, or must we draw a more sceptical conclusion? In his paper, ‘The Demise of the Demarcation Problem’, Larry Laudan (1983) does the latter. In this thesis, I address the three arguments he gives for this conclusion.
  •  56
    Frameworks for Historians & Philosophers
    Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 9 1-34. 2018.
    The past can be a stubborn subject: it is complex, heterogeneous and opaque. To understand it, one must decide which aspects of the past to emphasise and which to minimise. Enter frameworks. Frameworks foreground certain aspects of the historical record while backgrounding others. As such, they are both necessary for, and conducive to, good history as well as good philosophy. We examine the role of frameworks in the history and philosophy of science and argue that they are necessary for both for…Read more
  •  44
    Caricatures, Myths, and White Lies
    Metaphilosophy 46 (3): 414-435. 2015.
    Pedagogical situations require white lies: in teaching philosophy we make decisions about what to omit, what to emphasise, and what to distort. This article considers when it is permissible to distort the historical record, arguing for a tempered respect for the historical facts. It focuses on the rationalist/empiricist distinction, which still frames most undergraduate early modern courses despite failing to capture the intellectual history of that period. It draws an analogy with Michael Strev…Read more
  •  34
    Newton’s famous pronouncement, Hypotheses non fingo, first appeared in 1713, but his anti-hypothetical stance was present as early as 1672. For example, in his first paper on optics, Newton claims that his doctrine of light and colours is a theory, not a hypothesis, for three reasons (1) It is certainly true, because it supported by (or deduced from) experiment; (2) It concerns the physical properties of light, rather than the nature of light; and (3) It has testable consequences. Despite his cl…Read more
  •  32
    Newton on Islandworld: Ontic-Driven Explanations of Scientific Method
    Perspectives on Science 26 (1): 119-156. 2018.
    As philosophers, we are often in the business of explaining scientific method. That is, we ask why such-and-such investigation was carried out as it was, what worked and what didn't, and why. Here, we introduce a framework for understanding "ontic-driven" responses to these kinds of questions. Explanations of method are ontic-driven when they appeal to properties of the systems under investigation. We shall use our framework to develop a fruitful and plausible hypothesis: that several methodolog…Read more
  •  24
    Newton: From Certainty to Probability?
    Philosophy of Science 84 (5): 866-878. 2017.
    Newton’s earliest publications contained scandalous epistemological claims: not only did he aim for certainty; he also claimed success. Some commentators argue that Newton ultimately gave up claims of certainty in favor of a high degree of probability. I argue that no such shift occurred. I examine the evidence of a probabilistic shift: a passage from query 23/31 of the Opticks and rule 4 of the Principia. Neither passage supports a probabilistic approach to natural philosophy. The aim of certai…Read more
  •  23
    Newton described his Principia as a work of ‘experimental philosophy’, where theories were deduced from phenomena. He introduced six ‘phenomena’: propositions describing patterns of motion, generalised from astronomical observations. However, these don’t fit Newton’s contemporaries’ definitions of ‘phenomenon’. Drawing on Bogen and Woodward’s distinction between data, phenomena and theories, I argue that Newton’s ‘phenomena’ were explanatory targets drawn from raw data. Viewed in this way, the p…Read more
  •  11
    Isaac Newton condemned the use of hypotheses with his famous methodological statement, Hypotheses non fingo, and yet employed hypotheses explicitly in every edition of the Principia. Some commentators have argued that Newton was working with several inconsistent notions of ‘hypothesis’: specifically, the hypotheses he used in the Principia are not the sort that he railed against in the General Scholium at the end of that book. Other commentators argue that Newton’s methodological statements are …Read more
  •  3
    Early modern experimental philosophers often appear to commit to, and utilise, corpuscular and mechanical hypotheses. This is somewhat mysterious: such hypotheses frequently appear to be simply assumed, odd for a research program which emphasises the careful experimental accumulation of facts. Isaac Newton was one such experimental philosopher, and his optical work is considered a clear example of the experimental method. Focusing on his optical investigations, I identify three roles for hypothe…Read more
  •  1
    How Many Colours?
    In Marcos Silva (ed.), How Colours Matter to Philosophy, Springer. pp. 47-71. 2017.