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HACKING ON EXPERIMENT

SiSP 202/Phil 287 Philosophy of Science
I. Recovering Experiment
A. Hacking’s 1983 book influential in renewal of philosophical attention to experiment
B. What does it mean for “experiment to have a life of its own”?
1. independent of subservience to theory (cf. Popper quotation on p. 155)
2. not merely a means to the production of observations or “data”
C. What is involved in the autonomous life of experiment?
1. a practical understanding of equipment and materials
2. a practical understanding of possible sources of error and “noise,” and ways
of overcoming them
3. skill in the design, manipulation and use of apparatus (“good hands”)
4. discernment in assessing the performance and outcomes of experimental work
5. a sense for what kinds of projects are interesting, do-able, and significant
(including distinctively experimental significance)
6. a sense for how to get an effect, or how to do it differently, more efficiently,
more clearly, etc.
D. Experiment/theory relations
1. Does experiment provide the basis for theoretical reflection, or does theory
guide experimental design and interpretation? Answer: BOTH
2. Strong and weak conceptions of the theory-dependence of experiment
a) weak: experimentation needs some underlying ideas/reasons
b) strong: experimentation needs to be guided by a well-articulated theory
3. Does the experiment/theory relation vary with science’s stage of development?
a) Davy: perhaps in early stages of a science, there is both more leeway,
and greater need, for experiment not closely tied to theory
b) Liebig: once a theory has developed more extensively, the phenomena
to be studied may be too dependent upon a history of experimental
practice and its theoretical interpretation to work independently
c) BUT, not all sciences have theoretical practices independent of
experiment (theoretical physics and mathematical population
genetics not typical of all science)
d) BUT, even where theory is involved, there may still be relatively
autonomous experimental traditions, practices, and concerns
E. “Theory-bias”
1. over-emphasis upon theories (concepts/ideas) in thinking about science
2. over-emphasis upon “theoretical” spectator’s disengagement/detachment as
characteristic of scientific work and scientific understanding
II. Observation
A. "Observation isn't very important" (NOT that data or evidence is unimportant!)
B. Shift in emphasis from what we observe to what the phenomena show (cf. Elgin)
C. Why being "observant" may be more interesting than observation
1. human senses are not the sole, or even the most important detectors
2. what we “observe” is not just experimental outcome, but entire process

Elgin on exemplification) C. not “made up” b) the arrangement of things such that a pattern shows up clearly c) Hacking’s point: do NOT identify the phenomenon with the manifest pattern. Avoiding philological confusions from philosophical uses of ‘phenomenon’ 1. Hacking not distinguishing phenomena from “effects. night sky. We often have to reconstruct (parts of) the world to make it intelligible 3. N. The crucial shift: from studying a (possible) entity. Two conceptions of “realism” 1. and of context for exemplification 4. Why aren’t complex events “composed” of multiple phenomena? a) because the phenomenon includes background.g. rather than just observe nature? 1. not just manifest pattern b) an analysis of complexity doesn’t “really” decompose complex events D. Hacking is not denying that there are “phenomena” in nature a) e. Why care about the “creation” of phenomena? 1. Why do experiments. Science is a material practice. phenomena: events with clearly manifest pattern (not all events are phenomena) 2. What is being “created” when we create phenomena? a) NOT the constituents of the phenomena 1) phenomena are made (manufactured). but about the robustness of some features of the world a) a corollary: our “world” has changed now that molecular (and smaller) entities are robust constituents of our dealings with it .. seasons. Changing the point of realism: not about the adequacy of our theoretical understanding. Experimental Realism A. philosophical sense: phenomena as appearances in/to the mind B. Realism about theories: some theoretical claims are (approximately) true 2. Creating phenomena is hard (most experiments don’t work) 2. not merely intellectual analysis & representation IV. The Creation of Phenomena A. Boyd collapsed the two senses by treating successful reference (to entities) as a surrogate for approximate truth (of theories) B.B. Why be realists about experimental entities? 1.” but noting coincidence of terms (role of “effects” illustrate importance of creating phenomena) 4. Realism about entities: some “unobservable” entities are real objects with definite causal capacities 3. Some phenomena are more revealing than others (cf. to using it reliably 2. Hacking’s sense: phenomena as events in the world 2. only some practical understanding of how to interact with it 3. discussions of causality. Thomas Hobbes’ objection (1661): “Are there not enough [phenomena] shown by the high heavens and the seas and the broad Earth?” 2. that does not entail agreement with any description of the entity or its capacities. while ignoring the surroundings/background that allows it to be manifest 1) cf. Natural and created phenomena 1. astronomical phenomena (night/day. tides) 3. or the “law” it instantiates.III.