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Home Crucial Instances and Crucial Experiments in Bacon, Boyle, and Hooke

CRUCIAL INSTANCES AND CRUCIAL EXPERIMENTS IN BACON, BOYLE, AND HOOKE

Claudia DUMITRU

Abstract. My paper is an account of the tradition of crucial experiments prior to Newton. The starting point of my investigation is the second book of Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum and his account of instantia crucis, a subset of the instances with special powers. I take a close look at both his claims about the certainty of crucial instances and at the examples he advances to support his account. From there, I follow the adoption of this concept in the circles of the early Royal Society, briefly touching on Robert Boyle’s use of the phrase experimentum crucis, and then focusing on Robert Hooke’s Micrographia and the two experiments that are said to be crucial in Observation IX in that work. Hooke’s case is revealed to be a little more complicated than Boyle’s, because the two experiments that he claims are crucial for refuting Descartes’ theory of the nature of prismatic colors and confirming his own seem i) have a weaker confirmatory value and ii) to play a slightly different role than the examples Bacon and Boyle advanced. 

Keywords: Francis Bacon, crucial instances, eliminative induction, crucial experiments, Robert Hooke, Robert Boyle

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