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Beauty and Revolution in Science - James W. McAllister

Beauty and Revolution in Science

Paperback Published: 13th September 1999
ISBN: 9780801486258
Number Of Pages: 240
For Ages: 22+ years old

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Explaining why he embraced the theory of relativity, the Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist P. A. M. Dirac stated, "It is the essential beauty of the theory which I feel is the real reason for believing in it." How reasonable and rational can science be when its practitioners speak of "revolutions" in their thinking and extol certain theories for their "beauty"? James W. McAllister addresses this question with the first systematic study of the aesthetic evaluations that scientists pass on their theories. Using a wealth of other examples, McAllister explains how scientists' aesthetic preferences are influenced by the empirical track record of theories, describes the origin and development of aesthetic styles of theorizing, and reconsiders whether simplicity is an empirical or an aesthetic virtue of theories. McAllister then advances an innovative model of scientific revolutions, in opposition to that of Thomas S. Kuhn. Three detailed studies demonstrate the interconnection of empirical performance, beauty, and revolution. One examines the impact of new construction materials on the history of architecture. Another reexamines the transition from the Ptolemaic system to Kepler's theory in planetary astronomy, and the third documents the rise of relativity and quantum theory in the twentieth century.

Industry Reviews

"This is a great book. It clearly and concisely does what it sets out to do: It examines the basic philosophical and sociological theories of the role of aesthetics in science, it identifies the critical assumptions and contradictions that differentiate these views, and it provides a carefully reasoned, well-documented and novel approach to the issues. Best of all, the book is eminently readable. Anyone interested in the bases of scientific controversies, the nature of scientific revolutions, or the similarities and differences between the sciences and the arts should definitely read McAllister's book. It may prove to be as fundamental as Thomas S. Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions."-American Scientist "A valuable, important, persuasively argued book. Highly recommended."-Choice "An outstanding contribution to a little developed aspect of the philosophy and history of science."-Marx W. Wartofsky, Baruch College

List of Illustrations
Introductionp. 1
Two Challenges to Rationalismp. 7
Abstract Entities and Aesthetic Evaluationsp. 24
The Aesthetic Properties of Scientific Theoriesp. 39
Two Erroneous Views of Scientists' Aesthetic Judgmentsp. 61
The Inductive Construction of Aesthetic Preferencep. 70
The Relation of Beauty to Truthp. 90
A Study of Simplicityp. 105
Revolution as Aesthetic Rupturep. 125
Induction and Revolution in the Applied Artsp. 141
Circles and Ellipses in Astronomyp. 163
Continuity and Revolution in Twentieth-Century Physicsp. 182
Rational Reasons for Aesthetic Choicesp. 202
Referencesp. 209
Indexp. 227
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780801486258
ISBN-10: 0801486254
Audience: Professional
For Ages: 22+ years old
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 240
Published: 13th September 1999
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 22.89 x 15.42  x 1.75
Weight (kg): 0.36
Edition Type: New edition