•  160
    Newton's bucket experiment
    Journal of the History of Philosophy 16 (4): 399--413. 1978.
  •  74
    Cartwright and the lying laws of physics
    Journal of Philosophy 86 (7): 353-372. 1989.
  •  68
    The problem for the scientist created by using idealizations is to determine whether failures to achieve experimental fit are attributable to experimental error, falsity of theory, or of idealization. Even in the rare case when experimental fit within experimental error is achieved, the scientist must determine whether this is so because of a true theory and fortuitously canceling idealizations, or due to a fortuitous combination of false theory and false idealizations. For the engineer, the pro…Read more
  •  62
    This paper utilizes Scott domains (continuous lattices) to provide a mathematical model for the use of idealized and approximately true data in the testing of scientific theories. Key episodes from the history of science can be understood in terms of this model as attempts to demonstrate that theories are monotonic, that is, yield better predictions when fed better or more realistic data. However, as we show, monotonicity and truth of theories are independent notions. A formal description is giv…Read more
  •  55
    Experimentation and the legitimacy of idealization
    Philosophical Studies 77 (2-3). 1995.
  •  52
    Maxwell claimed that the electrostatic inverse square law could be deduced from Cavendish's spherical condenser experiment. This is true only if the accuracy claims made by Cavendish and Maxwell are ignored, for both used the inverse square law as a premise in their analyses of experimental accuracy. By so doing, they assumed the very law the accuracy of which the Cavendish experiment was supposed to test. This paper attempts to make rational sense of this apparently circular procedure and to re…Read more
  •  49
    Idealization, Explanation, and Confirmation
    PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1980. 1980.
    The use of idealizations and approximations in scientific explanations poses a problem for traditional philosophical theories of confirmation since, strictly speaking, these sorts of statements are false. Furthermore, in several central cases in the history of science, theoretical predictions seen as confirmatory are not, in any usual sense, even approximately true. As a means of eliminating the puzzling nature of these cases, two theses are proposed. First, explanations consist of idealized ded…Read more
  •  47
    Feyerabend, brownian motion, and the hiddenness of refuting facts
    Philosophy of Science 44 (2): 225-247. 1977.
    In this paper, I will develop a nontrivial interpretation of Feyerabend's concept of a hidden anomalous fact. Feyerabend's claim is that some anomalous facts will remain hidden in the absence of alternatives to the theories to be tested. The case of Brownian motion is given by Feyerabend to support this claim. The essential scientific difficulty in this case was the justification of correct and relevant descriptions of Brownian motion. These descriptions could not be simply determined from the a…Read more
  •  39
    Computer Simulations, Idealizations and Approximations
    PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1990. 1990.
    It's uncontroversial that notions of idealization and approximation are central to understanding computer simulations and their rationale. What's not so clear is what exactly these notions come to. Two distinct forms of approximation will be distinguished and their features contrasted with those of idealizations. These distinctions will be refined and closely tied to computer simulations by means of Scott-Strachey denotational programming semantics. The use of this sort of semantics also provide…Read more
  •  24
    Cartwright and the Lying Laws of Physics
    Journal of Philosophy 86 (7): 353. 1989.
  •  23
    Grunbaum has argued that the Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction hypothesis is not ad hoc since the Kennedy-Thorndike experiment can be used to provide a test that is significantly different from that provided by the Michelson-Morley experiment. In the first part of the paper, I show that the differences claimed by Grunbaum to hold between these two experiments are not sufficient for establishing independent testability. A dilemma is developed: either the Kennedy-Thorndike experiment, because of expe…Read more
  •  18
    Scientific Realism and the Hierarchical Counterfactual Path from Data to Theory
    PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1982. 1982.
    Using the Schwarzschild calculation of the Relativistic bending of starlight near the sun as an illustration, it is shown that the relationship between theory and data requires a hierarchy of structures of different logical type. An essential feature of this hierarchy is the use of idealizations and approximate truths. On the basis of a counterfactual analysis of these concepts, it is shown that confirmation is possible even though statistical measures of goodness of fit are not satisfied. The c…Read more
  •  1
    The path from data to theory
    In J. Leplin (ed.), Scientific Realism, University of California. pp. 108--123. 1984.