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Measurement Theory, Nomological Machine And Measurement Uncertainties (In Classical Physics)

Author(s): Ave Mets

Journal: Studia Philosophica Estonica
ISSN 1406-0000

Volume: 5.2;
Start page: 167;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: laboratory experiment | measurement theory | measurement uncertainties | classical physics | nomological machine

Measurement is said to be the basis of exact sciences as the process of assigning numbers to matter (things or their attributes), thus making it possible to apply the mathematically formulated laws of nature to the empirical world. Mathematics and empiria are best accorded to each other in laboratory experiments which function as what Nancy Cartwright calls nomological machine: an arrangement generating (mathematical) regularities. On the basis of accounts of measurement errors and uncertainties, I will argue for two claims: 1) Both fundamental laws of physics, corresponding to ideal nomological machine, and phenomenological laws, corresponding to material nomological machine, lie, being highly idealised relative to the empirical reality; and also laboratory measurement data do not describe properties inherent to the world independently of human understanding of it. 2) Therefore the naive, representational view of measurement and experimentation should be replaced with a more pragmatic or practice-based view.
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