HIS 322D_Nov_2 - HIS 322D November 2, 2011 The New...

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HIS 322D November 2, 2011 The New Experimentalism: Robert Boyle and the Air Pump Boyle is particularly important for not only doing experiments, but building a whole philosophy around doing experiments. People have been doing experiments for many, many years. For example, Galileo did a lot of measurements. But Galileo did not talk about these a lot – he didn’t talk about these as evidence to which to base an argument on. For Galileo, measurements weren’t evidence for the argument. He was more-so focused on the geometry of everything. Bacon was more-so leaning towards experiments. In this seventeenth century, people were also leaning more-so towards turning experiments into evidence. Experiments produced “matter-of-fact” evidence. People stopped trying to find out the formal causes of things, and finding things they can’t figure out – instead, they focused on other characteristics that can be experimented on. For example, Boyle wanted to find out how things worked in the world, and stated that the formal causes of things are for God to determine. Solid matter-of-facts (proper science, things you could know through experiments) were separated from speculative hypotheses (This was like what Descartes focused on; this was not proper science in Boyle’s mind). In the 1650s, Boyle first takes up science. This is still in the aftermath of the English War (Cromwell still was the leader right now). There’s still an upheaval of tradition and beliefs that are called into question. There’s also a striving for a consensus on observable facts. This leads to the development of ideas and practices that are then used much more widely (experimental philosophy) that is taken up much more broadly in the decades after. Another important aspect of the experimental philosophy was the writing of the experiments. In other words, people focused on ways to describe the experiments to make them more believable for people who weren’t there to see them themselves. Ideally, experiments should be repeatable, but sometimes this can’t be done. The air pump was Boyle’s main apparatus that he used for many experiments. This was a very expensive piece of equipment. As a practical matter, relatively few people could see the phenomena from the air pump for themselves. So Boyle must instead describe these experiments in a way that if the person was there, they’d see the same thing. This is “virtual witnessing.” This is conveying an honest account, and making the reader really believe that what is said happened actually happened. Torricelli and Pascal had made important discoveries with experiments in the 1640s with the
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HIS 322D_Nov_2 - HIS 322D November 2, 2011 The New...

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