Proceedings of the Sixth International Congress of Philosophy

By Edgar Sheffield Brightman | Go to book overview

II. SECTIONS OF DIVISION B
SECTION 1Time: Tuesday, September 14, 9.30 A.M. Place: Standish Hall Common Room Subject: The Status and Relations of Sensa and Scientific Objects Chairmen: E. A. SINGER, JR., Pennsylvania M. T. MCCLURE, Illinois
EXPERIMENT AND METAPHYSICS
EDGAR WIND
( North Carolina)
I
THERE is a paradox inherent in physical inquiry. The formulation of physical laws is based on measurements carried out within the field of physics. But measurements carried out with physical instruments are, themselves, subject to physical laws. It seems, then, that the possibility of controlling the accuracy of experiments presupposes the knowledge of those laws which the experiments intend to test, and the physicist's method of inference thus seems to move in a circle. The laws which he discovers cannot claim to be universal unless the measurement has been accurate. But the measurement cannot claim to be accurate unless it is based on the knowledge of universal laws.In order to decide whether this dilemma is fictitious or real we must determine more precisely what the claim of accuracy involves. For this purpose it is necessary to define the various elements of which a measurement is composed. As far as we can see, there are three such components to be distinguished:
1. The presupposition of a system of axioms and theorems, defining the terms of measurement and exhibiting the ideal rules which govern their composition (e.g., the Euclidean system of geometry).
2. The choice of individual physical objects which represent the terms of measurement in the factual world and thus serve as measuring instruments (e.g., the choice of measuring rods of some kind of material which are understood to represent straight lines in the sense of Euclid).

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