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EmergenceContemporary Readings in Philosophy and Science$
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Mark A. Bedau and Paul Humphreys

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780262026215

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262026215.001.0001

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Issues in the Logic of Reductive Explanations

Issues in the Logic of Reductive Explanations

(p.359) 19 Issues in the Logic of Reductive Explanations

Ernest Nagel

The MIT Press

This chapter explores a recurrent theme in the philosophical reflection on science that has been expressed by both philosophers and scientists: the contrast between the characteristics commonly attributed to things on the basis of everyday encounters with them and the accounts of those things given by scientific theories which formulate a pervasive executive order of nature. This can be seen as early as the time of Democritus, when he declared that while things are customarily described through sensory perception, in truth there are only the atoms and the void. Galileo also implied such a contrast between the primary and secondary qualities of bodies. Sir Arthur Eddington offered a more dramatic presentation by asking which of the two tables at which he was seated was “really there”—the solid, substantial table of familiar experience, or the insubstantial scientific table that is composed of speeding electric charges and is therefore mostly “emptiness.”

Keywords:   philosophical reflection, contrast, Democritus, atoms, void, Galileo, Sir Arthur Eddington

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