This book explores some truths behind the truism that experimentation is a hallmark of science. The intellectual and practical achievements of science have motivated a philosophical search for scientific methods of empirical access to the world, yet philosophy of science still lacks an adequate theory of observation and experiment. This is because most philosophers still construe scientists' reasoning in linguistic and formal terms which distance scientists from practical engagement with the phenomenal world and from other scientists. This text redresses the philosophical neglect of experimental practice, offering an alternative account of experiment as natural intelligence. This should be a substantial contribution to the philosophy of experiment that draws on studies of the early development of electromagnetism in the 19th century and the author's extensive knowledge of the laboratory work of one of the world's greatest experimental philosophers, Michael Faraday.
Gooding uses studies of the process of real and thought experiments to show how scientists develop representations that enable thought and argument by conferring meaning upon actions, objects, instruments and procedures as well as words. He explores the roles of human agency in many kinds of experiment, going behind the orderly reconstructions of the experimental narrative to recover the process of discovery in its most exploratory form. By showing how representations emerge from pre-verbal activity in the material world this study challenges analytical philosophy's preoccupation with mental and verbal representations and its naive distinction between theory and observation. He develops the `experimenter's redress', a new form of empiricism based on the cognitive role played by the refinement of material and linguistic practice in the fine structure of experiment.
`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)
Part One: Agency in Observation and Experiment. 1. The Procedural Turn. 2. Action and Interpretation. 3. Making Perception Possible. 4. Making Curves. 5. Making Circular Motion. 6. Representing Experimentation. Part Two: Making Natural Phenomena. 7. A Realistic Role for Experiment. 8. The Experimenter's Redress. 9. Empiricism in Practice. 10. Experiment and Meaning.