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The Logical Leap: Induction in Physics Paperback – July 6, 2010
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Harriman, for example, recounts how Galileo determined that "the rate at which a body falls is independent of its weight."
"Galileo demonstrated the answer with his characteristic flair. He climbed to the top of the famous Leaning Tower and, from a height of more than fifty meters, dropped two lead balls that differed greatly in size and weight. The students and professors assembled below saw both objects hit the ground at very nearly the same time. . . . Galileo then asked the next logical question: Does the rate of fall depend upon the material of the body? He repeated the experiment using one ball of lead and another made of oak. Again, when dropped simultaneously from a great height, they both hit the ground at very nearly the same time. Thus Galileo arrived at a very broad generalization: All free bodies, regardless of differences in weight and material, fall to Earth at the same rate." (p. 43)
Harriman rightly observes that this "seems too easy. It appears as though Galileo arrived at this fundamental truth . . . merely by doing a few experiments that any child could perform." But, Harriman explains, Galileo's breakthrough was not the experiments per se but the application of a concept that had eluded his predecessors, the concept of friction. That is, Galileo arrived at his law by carefully accounting for air friction in the Leaning Tower experiment.
This is not, however, the account that Galileo himself gives. Harriman writes, "Imagine that he attempted to drop the lead or oak balls through water instead of air . . . .Read more ›
Though I can't speak personally for the full accuracy of the historical accounts, they are essentialized with great skill, and lucidly presented. Harriman helpfully indicates how the episodes he discusses illustrate and support aspects of Peikoff's theory. I would like to have seen the connections between the episodes and the theory developed more fully, and the theory itself amplified in places; and the initial account of Rand's theory of concepts is too compressed.Read more ›
David Harriman is a professional physicist and philosopher with a wide grasp of his subject. Interested in putting forth a theory of induction based upon Ayn Rand's theory of concept formation, he briefly introduces his theses, and then examines two classical histories of induction. First he makes a detailed analysis of the history of thought about motion from the Greeks through Galileo and Kepler, to Newton. Then he examines atomic theory from the Greeks through Lavoisier and Kelvin to Mendeleev.
His basic theses are that induction is based on a hierarchy of generalization, parallel in form to Rand's hierarchical theory of concept formation (a subject too complex to address here, but which is covered in her monograph, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology); that progress in science relies not only on the experimental method, which he credits Galileo for first practicing, but on developing an increasingly sophisticated language of concepts, which must be induced in a hierarchical order; and that skepticism results from a flawed, context-dropping view of the history of science.
This last thesis is most informative. He speaks of the flawed Platonic and Cartesian idea of deriving and validating knowledge top-downward from first principles.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
David Harriman's ‘The Logical Leap: Induction in Physics’ is very good book for understanding the theory of induction. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
This is a demanding book. I've had to reread, review notes repeatedly and rephrase key concepts and definitions in my own words to begin to integrate these insights into my self... Read morePublished 7 months ago by P. Todd Foster
This book shows how to think scientifically. Thinking scientifically, or rather correctly, is the means to acquire knowledge not in text books. Read morePublished 8 months ago by William H. Egge IV
The clearest, most precise book about the scientific method of gaining knowledge. It is in stark contrast to today's typical methods that are completely detached from reality. Read morePublished 10 months ago by christopher m mathews
This is an excellent book. I very much enjoyed the history of the atomic theory. The book authoritatively demonstrates the validity of inductive logic.Published 12 months ago by Dale B. Halling
A clearly-written, understandable overview of how many of the great scientists (Galileo, Kepler, etc.) came to their relative conclusions. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Andrew Stolzle
Halfway through the book, and the most interesting and enjoyable aspect of the design of the book is how it not only walks you through the inductive process in science, but also... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Landon.W
The problem of logical induction has plagued modern philosophy ever since Francis Bacon proposed empiricism as the foundation for knowledge. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Dennis
Had to get this book for class. So yeah, i dont particularly enjoy reading it. However, its one of those books that i might have actually read without class. Read morePublished on April 9, 2014 by Leighanne