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Experimental criteria for accessing reality: Perrin’s experimental demonstration of atoms and molecules

Chen, Ruey-Lin and Hricko, Jonathon (2023) Experimental criteria for accessing reality: Perrin’s experimental demonstration of atoms and molecules. European Journal for Philosophy of Science, 13 (1). ISSN 1879-4912

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Abstract

This paper develops an approach to the scientific realism debate that has three main features. First, our approach admits multiple criteria of reality, i.e., criteria that, if satisfied, warrant belief in the reality of hypothetical entities. Second, our approach is experiment-based in the sense that it focuses on criteria that are satisfied by experiments as opposed to theories. Third, our approach is local in the sense that it focuses on the reality of particular kinds of entities. We apply this approach to a case that many philosophers have debated, namely, Jean Perrin’s work on atoms and molecules. We provide a novel account by arguing that Perrin’s work warranted a minimal belief in the reality of atoms and molecules as unobservable, discrete particles by satisfying a criterion of reality that we call experimental determination of number per unit. By doing so, he confirmed Avogadro’s hypothesis, but he did not confirm other key constituents of the atomic theories involved. We argue that our account of Perrin’s work is preferable to several other accounts, and we use this as a reason in support of our approach to the realism debate more generally.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Chen, Ruey-Lin
Hricko, Jonathon
Keywords: scientific realism, criteria of reality, Jean Perrin, experimentation, Avogadro’s number
Subjects: General Issues > Experimentation
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Specific Sciences > Physics
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Theory/Observation
Depositing User: Jonathon Hricko
Date Deposited: 13 Mar 2023 14:24
Last Modified: 13 Mar 2023 14:24
Item ID: 21868
Journal or Publication Title: European Journal for Philosophy of Science
Publisher: Springer
Official URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13194-0...
DOI or Unique Handle: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13194-023-00517-w
Subjects: General Issues > Experimentation
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Specific Sciences > Physics
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Theory/Observation
Date: 2023
Volume: 13
Number: 1
ISSN: 1879-4912
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/21868

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