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Ideas of Geoffrey Gorham, by Text

[American, fl. 2009, Professor at Macalester College, St Paul, Minnesota.]

2009 Philosophy of Science
2 p.38 Why abandon a theory if you don't have a better one?
     Full Idea: There is no sense in abandoning a successful theory if you have nothing to replace it with.
     From: Geoffrey Gorham (Philosophy of Science [2009], 2)
     A reaction: This is also a problem for infererence to the best explanation. What to do if your best explanation is not very good? The simple message is do not rush to dump a theory when faced with an anomaly.
3 p.75 If a theory is more informative it is less probable
     Full Idea: Popper's theory implies that more informative theories seem to be less probable.
     From: Geoffrey Gorham (Philosophy of Science [2009], 3)
     A reaction: [On p.75 Gorham replies to this objection] The point is that to be more testable they must be more detailed. He's not wrong. Theories are meant to be general, so they sweep up the details. But they need precise generalities and specifics.
4 p.96 Is Newton simpler with universal simultaneity, or Einstein simpler without absolute time?
     Full Idea: Is Newton's theory simpler than Einstein's, since there is only one relation of simultaneity in absolute time, or is Einstein's simpler because it dispenses with absolute time altogether?
     From: Geoffrey Gorham (Philosophy of Science [2009], 4)
     A reaction: A nice question, to which a good scientist might be willing to offer an answer. Since simultaneity is crucial but the existence of time is not, I would vote for Newton as the simpler.
4 p.98 Consilience makes the component sciences more likely
     Full Idea: The more unification and integration is found among the modern sciences, the less likely it seems it will have all been a dream.
     From: Geoffrey Gorham (Philosophy of Science [2009], 4)
     A reaction: I believe this strongly. Ancient theories which were complex, wide ranging and false do not impress me. This is part of my coherence view of justification.
4 p.101 Structural Realism says mathematical structures persist after theory rejection
     Full Idea: Structural Realists say that modern science achieves a true or 'truer' account of the world only with respect to its mathematical structure rather than its intrinsic qualities or nature. The structure carries over to new theories.
     From: Geoffrey Gorham (Philosophy of Science [2009], 4)
     A reaction: At first glance I am unconvinced that when an old theory is replaced it neverthess contains some sort of 'mathematical structure' which endures and is worth preserving. No doubt Worrall, French and co have examples.
4 p.102 Structural Realists must show the mathematics is both crucial and separate
     Full Idea: Structural Realists must show that it is the mathematical aspects of the theories, not their content, that account for their success .and that their structure and content can be clearly separated.
     From: Geoffrey Gorham (Philosophy of Science [2009], 4)
     A reaction: Their approach certainly seems to rely on mathematical types of science, so it presumably fits biology, geology and even astronomy less well.
4 p.103 Theories aren't just for organising present experience if they concern the past or future
     Full Idea: The strangeness of interpreting theories as mere tools for organising present experience is brought out clearly in sciences like cosmology and paleontology, which largely concern events in the remote past or future.
     From: Geoffrey Gorham (Philosophy of Science [2009], 4)
     A reaction: Not conclusive. An anti-realist has to interpret those sciences in terms of the current observations that are available.
4 p.103 For most scientists their concepts are not just useful, but are meant to be true and accurate
     Full Idea: The main difficulty with instrumentalism is its implausible account ot the meaning of theoretical claims and concepts. Most scientists take them to be straightforward attempts to describe the world. Most say they are useful because they are accurate.
     From: Geoffrey Gorham (Philosophy of Science [2009], 4)
     A reaction: Instrumentalism is seen as a Pragmatist view, and Dewey is cited.
4 p.110 Aristotelian physics has circular celestial motion and linear earthly motion
     Full Idea: Aristotelian physics assumed that celestial motion is naturally circular and eternal while terrestrial motion is naturally toward the center of the earth and final.
     From: Geoffrey Gorham (Philosophy of Science [2009], 4)
     A reaction: The overthrow of this by Galileo and then Newton may have been the most dramatic revolution of the new science. It opened up the possibility of universal laws of physics.